New Line taps De Luca exec VP/COO

In a major revamp of its movie production arm, New Line Cinema has crowned Michael De Luca as executive vice president and chief operating officer of its New Line Prods. unit, giving the 27-year-old exec authority over its New York- and Los Angeles-based development and production operations.

De Luca, who will remain in Los Angeles, will take over operational control of New Line Prods. from president Sara Risher, who has been promoted to chairman of the unit. The change is effective immediately. “This is New Line Cinema, the next generation,” chairman Robert Shaye said.

De Luca’s promotion comes as New Line ramps up one of the most aggressive development and productionslates in its 25-year history, including such projects as “National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1”; producer David Permut’s “Howard Stern: The Movie”; director George Romero’s “Unholy Fire”; the Luke Perry starrer “The Lane Frost Story”; “Crash Dummies”; and director Michael Apted’s “Blink.” De Luca brought all of those projects to the New Line stable.

During his career, De Luca has proven to be one of the industry’s “more creative” creative executives, having co-exec produced “Deep Cover” and written “Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare” from a story by the film’s director, Rachel Talalay.

De Luca’s promotion comes just two months after he was contacted about a VP of production job at Paramount Pictures, but Shaye insisted the production restructuring had nothing to do with Par’s recruitment effort.

“Michael acknowledged that his best shot was at New Line,” Shaye said. “He wanted to take his own professional career in as broad a direction as he chose, as opposed to simply getting pigeonholed in a large institutionalized organization.” De Luca had no comment on the Paramount discussions. Citing New Line Prods.’ expansion under Risher, company president Michael Lynne said the unit’s expansion from two movies annually to a high-water mark of nine last year led to the change. He said De Luca’s ascension creates “an organization that can effectively manage that growth.”

Supervisor on such titles as “Pump Up the Volume,””Hairspray” and the “Nightmare on Elm Street” and “House Party” franchises, Risher said she had been trying to free herself from “day-to-day administration and managerial duties for quite a while now.” As production topper, Risher will share final greenlight authority with Shaye and Lynne.

According to Lynne, Risher will “point the company in new directions,” including identifying market trends, new movie genres and potential franchise properties.

New Line is currently attempting to establish new “tent pole” properties through the production of the comedy “National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1” and the actioner “Excessive Force.” Risher said the chairman’s post will allow her to “push more directly” several projects at the company, including director John Lafia’s “Man’s Best Friend”–a potential franchise about a troublesome canine.

Shaye’s relationship with De Luca runs deep. A Brooklyn native, De Luca came to work for New Line as a 19-year-old intern while earning his undergraduate degree at NYU. In the years since, he has worked as New Line story editor, director of development, production VP and most recently senior VP of production (Daily Variety, April 23).

“I’ve been lucky to be here during the last eight years, which has coincided with the greatest growth in the company’s history,” said De Luca, adding his mandate will be to establish New Line as “a door that more people feel they can walk through.”

Reporting to De Luca will be New Line senior veepee Janet Grillo, production veeps Toby Emmerich, Kevin Moreton, Aaron Meyerson, Phil Goldfine, director of West Coast development Helena Echegoyan and East Coast director of development Laurence Schwartz.

When asked whether New Line’s production department will expand under De Luca , Shaye said “we would like to get up to doing 10 or 12 films a year. We’re equipped to do it, but we could use a couple more people to reach our objective.”

Lynne hedged about adding a development executive to fill the slot De Luca vacated, warning that it was dependent on company need and not a certainty. De Luca said any staff additions would made after the end of the year.