After reportedly trying to forge some kind of amicable, foward-looking merger between Picturehouse and Warner Independent, Warner Bros. management has suddenly thrown up its hands and is getting out of the “dependent” business altogether, it was announced about an hour ago.
WB president & COO Alan Horn released a statement that seems to translate, when you boil the snow out of it, into the following: “Sorry, but we’ve come to realize that running a Fox Searchlight- or Paramount Vantage-type operation just isn’t our bag. Our hearts were sort of into this, but now they aren’t. Things change. Besides, we’ve got New Line for the smaller stuff. We’re into maximizing revenue and building broad genre franchises, and…you know, making or releasing movies for people who read reviews and enjoy provocative subject matter just isn’t worth it to us.”
The actual statement reads that “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 …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.”
So except for Clint Eastwood‘s Gran Torino and the occasional lucky-accident movie that may rank as award-worthy, Warner Bros. seems to have basically taken itself out of the quality-driven prestige movie business.
I wonder what really happened? What led to the breakdown of the merger talks?
It turns out that Defamer‘s Stu VanAirsdale was fairly close to the money when he reported that Picturehouse may soon be shut down, and that Anne Thompson‘s Variety story about the same situation was less correct, especially in reporting that Picturehouse chief Bob Berney and Warner Independent prexy Polly Cohen are “likely” to accept a bicoastal power-sharing arrangement that will preside over a merged operation,” i.e., Warner Indiepicturehouse.