The Identity Crisis of New Line Cinema

Since the release of Wyatt’s article “The Formation of of the ‘Major Independent'” in 1998, the journey of New Line Cinema has had many ups and downs; however, the recent standing of the company seems shaky. Does it still represent the low-budget cult films it distributed in the 80’s and 90’s or has it put on the money glasses and bowed down to Hollywood?

In 1967, the company was founded by Robert Shaye with the intent to distribute low-budget films, like John Water’s Pink FlamingosThese films gained the company a sustainable underground, college student following, which in turn allowed them to create a pre-production marketing strategy that allowed them to make early deals and guarantee the distribution of low-budget films. They gained huge success from the distribution of A Nightmare On Elm Street series and later the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series. Although these films are staples in pop culture today, they were picked up by the company surprisingly as independent low budget films. These series became the key to the companies success; the money they received from these series allowed them to take risks with films like Boogie Nights, the home video industry, and with their “indie” film company, Fine Line. The company was riding high as they were bought by Ted Turner for $600 million. Still operating on their own, New Line was then handed over to the Time Warner Company in 1996. Though they were technically apart of of a larger cooperation, their success allowed them to operate under their own logo and produce huge blockbuster hits like the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The Lord of the Rings?! How does a company determined to be an independent distributor from the start produce such a hit and still be considered independent? This is where the identity crisis of New Line Cinema seems to begin.  An article by Andrew Gumbel discusses how moves made by Shaye during this major success ultimately killed the independent spirit of the company as he tried to produce more Hollywood blockbusters; however, this goal failed after the release of The Golden Compass in 2007. After a $200 million investment and box-office fail, the company and their other “indie” divisions were absorbed by Warner Brothers in 2008 and shut down as an independently operated company.

Now a part of a conglomerate, the company has the ability to produce a limited number of movies under their own logo; however, I do not believe they can still be considered independent. They have lost that ability to produce the low-budget, cross-over films and B-movies they used to, due to the fact that Warner Brother, a major distributor, helps to back high-budget films like The Hobbit. The risks they used to take are discouraged and although they can use their logo to produce a limited number of films, they are still censured in the risk in films they can take, because of their conglomerate name. They are now having to produce higher budget movies to draw big box-office numbers and appeal to the masses, unfortunately succumbing to the draws of Hollywood fortune.


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