New Line: The 1998 Studio Scorecard
The movie business has always been a rat race. Which studios are making strides, and which are just limping along this year?
1997 MARKET SHARE 6.2% // 1998 MARKET SHARE (TO DATE) 8.6%
THE STORY SO FAR This once scrappy indie, still overseen by its founder, Robert Shaye, used to churn out cheapies like Nightmare on Elm Street, but since joining the Time Warner fold it’s grown a lot more ambitious. So far the results have been mixed: While New Line is still performing well with low- to medium-budgeted flicks like The Wedding Singer, Boogie Nights, Spawn, and Wag the Dog, it hasn’t yet mastered the art of the event movie. The costly Lost in Space, for instance, may eventually make its money back but, with a disappointing $67.4 million domestic gross, it won’t become the ongoing franchise that the studio was seeking.
STRENGTHS New Line’s pockets have grown deep since the merger with Time Warner. Although its new parent company hasn’t provided much development money, its name has given New Line enough clout to arrange a $500 million line of credit—enough cash to bankroll its production needs for the next couple of years—as well as attract investments from venture capitalists.
WEAKNESSES Thanks to a spate of bad press and boorish behavior by top studio executives, let’s just say New Line won’t be winning many awards from the National Organization for Women anytime in the near future. Plus, a meltdown in the marketing department led to resignations last year.
COPORATE CULTURE A cross between Animal House and Caligula. But the decidedly uncorporate atmosphere puts the studio right up there with Miramax as Gen-X’s top choice—Johnny Depp, Brendan Fraser, Chris Tucker, Edward Norton, Reese Witherspoon, Alicia Silverstone, and Mark Wahlberg are among those on the current payroll.
THE BIG PICTURE The merger could have killed New Line: For a while, it looked as if Time Warner might put the studio on the chopping block and snack on the leftovers. But over the last year, New Line has succeeded in carving out a semiautonomous sphere in the Time Warner world, with Shaye & Co. reporting directly to TW vice chairman Ted Turner (who bought the studio in 1993, pre-merger).
INDUSTRY TAKE Maybe that bad press wasn’t so bad after all. The screenwriter: “No one in Hollywood gives a s— [about the scandals]. Period, end of story. The only thing people care about in the industry is, are your movies any good?” The producer: “A couple of cold showers wouldn’t kill the place. [But] people have gotten the message—they’ll zipper up a bit.” And the agent: “Whatever you hear about the people, they’re always polite and helpful to everyone. They’re the most receptive to ideas of any studio.”
WHAT’S NEXT An iffy slate, with only Blade (starring Wesley Snipes) and Jackie Chan’s Rush Hour this summer, and no sure blockbusters in the fall (although the studio has high hopes for its Truman Show variation Pleasantville). But the following year or so—with the promise of a new comedy from the Wedding Singer team of Adam Sandler and producer Robert Simonds, the horror camp-fest Freddy vs. Jason, and an Austin Powers follow-up that’s bound to be groovy, baby!—is looking better. Dream project for 2000: a Steven Spielberg-Tom Cruise collaboration on Nicholas Sparks’ The Notebook.
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