Studio to be cut to a skeleton crew

It’s looking like the end of the line for most of New Line’s 600 employees and uncertainty for New Line’s slate.

Parent Time Warner hasn’t disclosed details of job cuts since last Thursday’s announcement that New Line would be folded into Warner Bros. and that co-toppers Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne would depart. But the emerging consensus is that at least 75% of the slots will be axed in the coming months while a bare-bones staff stays on — a plan reminiscent of what happened to Disney’s Miramax arm after the Weinstein brothers departed in 2005.

Time Warner, which has been under pressure to cut costs and hike its stagnant stock price, will name a “transition team” shortly to handle the specifics of folding New Line into Warner Bros.

Though he’s remaining on the job for the time being, New Line production president Toby Emmerich is widely expected to ankle. It’s also anticipated that New Line will vacate its New York office and its West Hollywood HQ and move operations onto the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank.

Warner will decide how to handle New Line’s upcoming films, though specific decisions on possible date switches aren’t expected for several more weeks. New Line’s next pics are “Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo” on April 28 and “Sex and the City” on May 30; no other films are slotted until the Aug. 1 launch of “He’s Just Not That Into You” and the July 11 opening of “Journey 3D.”

Hundreds of New Line employees converged on the Pacific Design Center’s Silver Screen Theater on Friday to learn their fate as Time Warner topper Jeff Bewkes addressed the overflow crowd via satellite.

Bewkes, who was in New York, told the audience that they may be approached by headhunters in the coming weeks, but Time Warner wants to retain as many New Line employees as possible.

Bewkes took questions during the meeting; an attendee asked him who was in charge of New Line, which is being folded into the parent company as a small genre division. He indicated that Shaye and Lynne will be stepping down soon.

“They’re still here,” said Bewkes during the meeting, which was closed to the public. “For everyone’s sake, they need to step back from the process.”

Bewkes assured the crowd that the shuttering of the stand-alone mini-major had nothing to do with its performance. “New Line has been the most successful independent studio in history,” he said.

Attendees said Bewkes didn’t offer many specifics during the meeting, which lasted about 45 minutes, and he responded with “That’s a good question” on several occasions.

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