Warner Bros. has discovered a way to deal with the specialty film business — it’s staying away from it.
In a move that caught Hollywood off guard, Warner Bros. has decided to shutter both Picturehouse and Warner Independent Pictures.
Announcement came late Thursday morning from Alan Horn, Warner’s president and chief operating officer, who cited the need to cut costs and pointed to the recent move to fold and scale down operations at New Line.
“With New Line now a key part of Warner Bros., we’re able to handle films across the entire spectrum of genres and budgets without overlapping production, marketing and distribution infrastructures,” he said. “After much painstaking analysis, this was a difficult decision to make, but it reflects the reality of a changing marketplace and our need to prudently run our businesses with increased efficiencies. We’re confident that the spirit of independent filmmaking and the opportunity to find and give a voice to new talent will continue to have a presence at Warner Bros.”
Picturehouse, run by president Bob Berney, has 43 employees. WIP, under Polly Cohen, employs 31 staffers.
Picturehouse will release three pics between now and September, when it opens The Women. Staffers will go to Cannes.
Warner Bros. was the last major to form a specialty label. Under former WIP prexy Mark Gill, it generated some hits, including 2005’s March of the Penguins.
Cohen, a former production exec at the studio, succeeded Gill and her acquisitions have included Introducing the Dwights and Snow Angels. It also produced Tommy Lee Jones vehicle In the Valley of Elah.
Berney’s tenure include New Line buying out former partner HBO and investing in two foreign-language films — La Vie en rose and Pan’s Labyrinth — which nabbed five Oscar awards between them.