New Line CEO’s set the international bar

Shaye and Lynne bask in 'Rings' glory

It might seem odd that a guy from Detroit and one from Brooklyn would leave such an indelible mark on the global cinematic landscape.

But that’s exactly what New Line Cinema co-chairmen and CEOs Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne have done throughout their combined 67 years at the Hollywood studio.

Shaye, the Motown-bred mogul, and Lynne, a lifelong New Yorker, took a $200 million chance on “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy — an unlikely call given the New Zealand location shoot and U.K.-heavy cast. But the film’s international flavor helped lure a legion of obsessed moviegoers worldwide.

In recognition of their global vision, Shaye and Lynne will receive the Britannia Award for Lifetime Contributions to International Film, marking the third time the honor has been bestowed (last year, Sidney Poitier was tapped for the distinction).

While “Rings” obviously impressed the BAFTA crowd, New Line also scored points for bringing auds aboard such Brit-flavored humor as the “Austin Powers” trilogy.

“We’re proud that we’ve supplied (foreign-friendly) entertainment, and we hope we haven’t contaminated the culture,” Shaye quips. “Of course the most successful of the bunch has been ‘The Lord of the Rings’ series, because that just appealed to all four quadrants in virtually every marketplace it was released in. But there are comedies like ‘Wedding Crashers’ and scary movies like ‘Nightmare on Elm Street,’ and it has been this whole range that has appealed to various sectors of the international moviegoing audience that we’re proud of.”

For years, New Line, which was founded by Shaye in 1967, has distributed films helmed by prestigious British filmmakers including Mike Leigh (“Naked,” “Vera Drake”) and Mike Newell (“An Awfully Big Adventure” and the upcoming “Love in the Time of Cholera”). New Line also shot two films in the U.K. this year: Chris Weitz’s “The Golden Compass,” based on British writer Philip Pullman’s series of books, and Iain Softley’s “Inkheart.”

Shaye and Lynne, who met at Columbia Law School in the 1960s, also have forged a successful distribution partnership with Nigel and Trevor Green’s London-based Entertainment Film Distributors, and together the two companies launched the production shingle Material Entertainment, which produces up to four pictures per year.

Because the New Line toppers often pre-sell international distribution rights, the studio’s films tend to be grounded in more universal themes and sensibilities than standard studio fare.

“I think (this award) is very exciting for Bob and I and all of us at New Line because we really respect BAFTA for everything it does, particularly its encouragement of quality international cinema,” Lynne says.

Adds Shaye: “We have a U.K. connection because we’re very fond of the long-term relationship we’ve had with the Greens and the fantastic job they’ve done for our films. They have a real insight into how to do a little marketing twist to convert what we’ve delivered to them, in terms of a marketing plan for a particular movie, into something that will be attractive and interesting for U.K. moviegoers.”