Gill makes sudden exit from Warner indie

In an abrupt shake-up, Mark Gill is ankling as prexy of Warner Independent Pictures, with Warner Bros. exec VP of production Polly Cohen reportedly in talks to run the specialty unit.

Gill, who was brought on to launch Warner Independent in 2003, will depart the post Thursday. He’s set to remain on the WB lot, however, as a producer.

From the outset, Gill’s style was said to clash with that of Warner production prexy Jeff Robinov. But with the breakout success of “March of the Penguins” last year, Gill was thought to have bolstered his standing. Gill’s contract was to run through August.

Robinov, to whom Gill reported, said in a statement that Gill “has done a very good job of establishing Warner Independent,” and that the studio remains committed to the specialty arm.

Studio would not confirm that Cohen is in line to replace Gill.

Cohen was recently upped to exec VP of production under Robinov, overseeing big-budget pics such as “Superman Returns” and the “Harry Potter” franchise.

If Warners taps Cohen rather than looking to outside candidates, studio will be relying on someone who has more traditional studio experience than indie credentials. She worked for Jersey Films for two years, but has otherwise spent most of her career at Warner Bros. She joined the studio in 1997 as a creative exec.

Warner Bros. issued the official statement about Gill Tuesday night, capping a day of rumors.

Gill’s exit coincides with the specialty arm’s most notable year, and not just because of the penguin docu. Warner Independent also turned out George Clooney’s “Good Night, and Good Luck,” as well as scoring on the awards circuit with the Palestinian film “Paradise Now.”

There’s been talk that parent Warners wants Warner Independent to focus more on acquisitions than on production, a point of possible contention between studio execs and Gill.

Among studio specialty arms, Warner Independent has never been heavy on the side of inhouse productions.

Its upcoming slate includes Richard Linklater’s “A Scanner Darkly,” Christopher Guest’s “For Your Consideration” and “Astronaut Farmer.”

In the Warners statement, Gill thanked Warner Bros. Entertainment prexy-chief operating officer Alan Horn and Robinov, along with his staff, “most notably Laura Kim, Steven Friedlander, Paul Federbush, Tracey Bing and Erin O’Neil.”

Gill came to Warner Bros. from Stratus Film Co. Before that, he spent eight years at Miramax, including serving as prexy of the company’s L.A. office. Prior to working for Harvey and Bob Weinstein, Gill worked for six years at Columbia and TriStar Pictures, including a stint as senior VP of marketing.

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