Emmerich to front of New Line

He'll lead the stand-alone entity as president, COO

Toby Emmerich has been named president and COO of New Line and will lead its reorganization as a stand-alone production entity under the Warner Bros. umbrella. The move had been expected (HR 3/13).

Wednesday's announcement clarifies what the new New Line will look like. Since new Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes said in February that the unit would be absorbed by Warners, New Line had been operating in a state of limbo with executives and other employees uncertain about their futures.

With Emmerich's appointment, New Line will continue to maintain its own development, creative and production teams, though in a much pared-down incarnation. It will release about six films a year and have a discretionary fund to buy script and books, though it will be cut back considerably from the $40 million-$50 million it had under former company heads Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne.

Emmerich, who will report to Warner Bros. president and COO Alan Horn, is expected to oversee a slate that will focus more on horror movies and low-budget comedies than the moderate-budgeted fare New Line had been producing in recent years. However, it won't be limited to those genres and might, on certain occasions, be allowed to move beyond its budgetary restrictions if A-listers are interested in a project that requires a commitment beyond its new budgetary caps.

The company will continue working with MGM on its two-film adaptation of "The Hobbit."

When it comes to defining a New Line movie going forward, it's "about the movie, not the budget," Emmerich said, quoting Warners' top brass.

New Line is expected to further define its executive ranks in the coming weeks, with the roles of such senior execs as COO Mark Ordesky and senior exec vp Richard Brener hanging in the balance. Rolf Mittweg, president and COO of worldwide marketing and distribution, and domestic distribution president David Tuckerman are expected to leave in the coming months.

"Before we start to make films, we need to address the employees, which I still believe are New Line's greatest asset," Emmerich said of the transition. "If they are not going to be in that group, then we need to let them know as soon as possible and help them move on with their lives as best as we can. That is the No. 1 thing to get done."

New Line 2.0 also will keep its own marketing, publicity, distribution, business and legal affairs and physical production divisions; all will report to Emmerich but will closely coordinate with their Warners counterparts in order to keep costs low.

The company will maintain its headquarters on Robertson Boulevard and not move to Warners' Burbank lot.

Warners opted to turn the reins over to Emmerich partly because of his experience as the company's head of production, a position he has held since 2001, and partly to ensure a sense of continuity between the recent past and the future.

While the company will refocus itself on horror and genre fare, Emmerich has publicly admitted to "not getting" those kinds of movies. During his tenure, New Line produced fewer genre offerings, like the "A Nightmare on Elm Street" franchise, on which it once relied. Instead, it steered toward midrange thrillers and comedies with budgets in the $30 million-$70 million range.

A handful of hits resulted, such as "Wedding Crashers," which grossed more than $209 million domestically, as well as "Elf," "The Notebook" and "Hairspray." But Emmerich's strategy of working the middle ground, ceded by bigger studios concentrating on big tentpoles and by smaller outfits making horror and urban comedies, also suffered long dry spells.

New Line, perhaps realizing that there is gold in the horror hills, already had begun to return to the genre. In January, it engaged Platinum Dunes to relaunch the "Nightmare" franchise, and last year, it began developing a revamp of "Friday the 13th" with Paramount. It also recently began production on "Final Destination 4."

Emmerich said that "horror and thrillers and maybe even back in the urban game is something we should be doing. However, Warners has said to me that New Line should not be a genre label. Running just a genre label, I would not be the right guy for."

The new company head also said that once the reorganization is complete, expect some fast moves, meaning some quick buys and some quick greenlights. He, backed up by Warners, want to send a signal to the town that New Line still means business.

"We want to be a destination, not an afterthought," he said.

Emmerich joined the company in 1992 as a dual development and music executive. In his position as president of music, he oversaw the development for such films as "Boogie Nights," "Friday," "Dumb and Dumber" and "I Am Sam," among others.