Warner Independent Pictures

Shuttered unit fell short of its potential

The specialty biz was jolted this spring when Warner Bros. shut down its specialty division. In some ways, Warner Independent never hit its full stride, hindered by a personality conflict between Warner Bros. honcho Jeff Robinov and WIP’s first topper, Mark Gill, who was brought in to launch the label in 2003. Specialty arm’s biggest B.O. hit was Oscar-winning docu “The March of the Penguins,” which grossed $77.4 million domestically.

When Gill departed more than two years ago, Robinov put Polly Cohen, an exec VP of production at the big studio, in charge.

The label struggled much of the past year at the box office. Iraqi war drama “In the Valley of Elah” was critically acclaimed but suffered from an overall lack of interest among moviegoers for war-related fare. Pic was nevertheless WIP’s highest-grossing title of the last year, earning $6.8 million domestically.

Big Warners insists it isn’t getting out of the specialty biz, asserting that the studio’s marketing and distribution arms are fully capable of releasing smaller films. However, the final titles from Warner Independent are “Towelhead” and “Slumdog Millionaire,” with the latter now being jointly distributed with Fox Searchlight.

B.O.: $9.2 million

TOP PIC: “In the Valley of Elah,” $6.8 million

UP NEXT:

“Towelhead” (Sept. 12 via Warner Bros.)

“Slumdog Millionaire” (Nov. 7 via Warner and Fox Searchlight)

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