Studio's output will focus more on tentpole titles

Warner Bros. is looking to slim down New Line again.

Though it’s not commenting on the record, Warners is aiming to reduce output from New Line to about four films a year from an average of six. And New Line’s output will focus more on tentpole titles such as “The Hobbit” and “Jack the Giant Killer.”

The initiative is in line with Warner’s own goal of gradually reducing its release slate, coupled with a greater emphasis on franchise properties. Studio toppers Alan Horn and Jeff Robinov have indicated in recent conversations with creatives and their reps that Warners simply doesn’t need as many titles in coming years.

Warner Bros. released 23 films last year and is on tap for 22 this year and next, so the number probably won’t begin declining until 2013.

It’s also likely that New Line’s staff of about 50 will be reduced — although those cuts haven’t been made yet. New Line president Toby Emmerich is expected to stay.

The move comes three years after New Line’s 40-plus-year run as a largely autonomous film entity came to an end. That happened with the ouster of founder Bob Shaye and a restructuring that cut more than 500 jobs and made New Line a full unit of Warner Bros.

New Line released eight films in 2009 — mostly romantic comedies such as “He’s Just Not That Into You” and “17 Again” — but that number fell to four last year (“Sex and the City 2,” “Going the Distance,” “Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Valentine’s Day”). It’s on track for five more this year with “The Rite” having opened last month and “Hall Pass” opening on Friday, followed by “Horrible Bosses” in July, the fifth “Final Destination” in August, “Harold and Kumar 3” in November and “New Year’s Eve” in December.

New Line has completed production on “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island” but that title hasn’t been dated. It’s expected to begin production this spring on Adam Shankman’s adaptation of “Rock of Ages” and Bryan Singer’s “Jack the Giant Killer.”

New Line began putting more comedies into the pipeline when it elevated longtime exec Richard Brener to production president four years ago. Brener is probably best known for shepherding “Wedding Crashers,” which grossed nearly $300 million worldwide seven years ago.

New Line still has several comedies — notably “We’re the Millers,” “Honeymoon with Harry” and “Burt Wonderstone” — in active development.

It also still has plenty on its plate, in that it’s teamed with MGM on the two “Hobbit” films, set to go into production next month in New Zealand. Warners agreed last month to take on MGM’s international distribution duties in exchange for funding MGM’s share of production costs, estimated at $265 million to $275 million.

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