The Mini-Majors: New Line

Top pix: 'Freddy,' 'Chainsaw'

By the end of 2003, New Line production prexy Toby Emmerich was vindicated. After watching the year get off to a rocky start with such flops as “Willard,” “The Real Cancun” and the costly “A Man Apart,” New Line roared back with the 1-2-3 punch of “Freddy vs. Jason” ($80 million domestic), “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” ($80 million domestic) and “Elf” (a whopping $154 million domestic).

And, of course, there was the final “The Lord of the Rings” — taking in $124 million by Dec. 22, a week after it opened. The studio’s hope that the final installment will gross $1 bil worldwidei is not beyond possibility.

Fine Line, for its part, saw two notable successes with Gus Van Sant’s Cannes honoree “Elephant” left a mouse-sized footprint at a whisker over $1 million domestically, and “American Splendor,” raking in just over $6 million.

Emmerich says he subscribes to the Chinese restaurant theory of picture-picking: “When you’ve been eating a lot of burgers, Chinese sounds good. When you’ve been eating a lot of Chinese, burgers sound good.”

In other words, New Line hopes to counter-program its way to success, zigging when other studios zag. And such success may breed success, he adds, “It has given us a kind of currency in the creative community” that will allow for better projects to be developed.

For 2004, New Line has Ashton Kutcher starring in thriller “The Butterfly Effect” in January, and has high hopes for Pierce Brosnan and Julianne Moore starrer “The Laws of Attraction” — a comedy in the vein of “Adam’s Rib.” Also on the sked is the third installment of the “Blade” franchise, with Wesley Snipes in the title role; it’s due in August. And finally, the year rounds out with “After the Sunset,” a Brett Ratner-helmed theft caper that stars Woody Harrelson and Brosnan.

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