New Line Cinema is turning to a couple of hobbits for some box office gold. The company is co-producing two films based on J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. Its previous releases include the top-grossing The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, winner of 11 Oscars, as well as Rush Hour 3, The Golden Compass, He's Just Not That Into You, and the big screen versions of Sex and the City. New Line distributes films on video and DVD through New Line Home Entertainment and licenses and develops New Line franchises (The Mask, Dumb and Dumber) for TV and merchandising through New Line Television. Founded in 1967 by former co-chairman Robert Shaye, New Line is a unit of Time Warner's Warner Bros. Entertainment division.
New Line was no doubt disapointed by the box office results of 2010's Sex and the City sequel, which earned much less than the original Sex and the City did in 2008. Sex and the City 2 was ravaged by critics, and its domestic gross failed to surpass its reported $100 million budget. While nothing is ever a sure thing in Hollywood, it is safe to say that New Line can expect more from its next major project, The Hobbit. The prequel to the Lord of the Rings is a two-part collaboration with MGM, Warner Bros., and filmmaker Peter Jackson. The Hobbit: Part 1 is set for a 2012 release date.
It's anybody's guess, however, if The Hobbit films will be as lucrative as New Line's biggest success to date by far -- its filmed Lord of the Rings franchise. Also directed by Jackson, the title had been batted around by numerous studios that were fearful of such a gargantuan production; New Line bet big and agreed to film all three movies at once and release them over the course of three years. As a result, the series earned truckloads of money (nearly $3 billion worldwide) and gained a slew of awards. The final chapter, The Return of the King, is #3 on the all-time worldwide box office list (behind Avatar and Titanic). The movie swept all 11 categories in which it was nominated at the Academy Awards (including Best Picture), tying the record of both Titanic and Ben-Hur. (The entire series won a total of 17 Oscars).
In its current state, New Line is a much smaller operation than it was before it became a division of Warner Bros. in 2008. (New Line was previously a separate Time Warner subsidiary.) The cost cutting move integrated New Line's production, marketing, and distribution roles with Warner Bros., and transformed New Line's identity from that of a studio to a production and development company. It also resulted in the departure of co-chairmen Shaye and Michael Lynne, as well as hundreds of layoffs at New Line. The division makes six to eight films a year for Warner Bros., down from 12 to 15.
New Line began as a wholly independent studio that produced low-budget genre movies, including A Nightmare on Elm Street and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Shaye sold New Line to Ted Turner in 1993 for about $550 million. Other popular New Line releases include Austin Powers, Blade, Elf, and Wedding Crashers.