Variety has updated the story I linked to in my previous post a few times now. The current version says this, among other things:
The colorful 40-year run of New Line is coming to an abrupt end, costing the jobs of most of the company’s 600 staffers.
The company — home to “The Lord of the Rings,” “Austin Powers,” “Friday the 13th,” “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” “Rush Hour,” “The Mask” and “Boogie Nights” — will be folded into Warner Bros. as a small genre arm.
But toppers Bob Shaye, who founded the company in his New York apartment, and Michael Lynne will not be part of the package.
No exact numbers have been divulged for how many of New Line’s staffers will stay but the surviving entity will be a shell of its former self, refocusing on the horror, comedy and urban genre pics that helped put it on the map decades ago. . . .
“The Hobbit” has Guillermo Del Toro in talks to direct, and the picture will be unaffected by the ouster of Shaye and Lynne. Though the films won’t be scripted until a director is hired, and Jackson wraps “The Lovely Bones,” the expectation is that the films will be ready for release for Christmas 2011 and 2012. Harry Potter will have wound down at WB by then, and the corporation will surely welcome another fantasy franchise that has an eager global audience waiting. New Line will distribute domestically, while MGM has international rights. . . .
Incidentally, it occurs to me that the sequels to The Golden Compass might not be completely out of the question yet. If the first film continues to be a success overseas, and if the new arrangement allows Warner to distribute the sequels directly overseas instead of pre-selling the foreign-distribution rights, then Warner could decide that there is enough money to be made in the franchise worldwide to warrant a continuation of the trilogy. I don’t expect that Warner will decide to continue the trilogy — with two Harry Potter movies and two Hobbit movies to put out over the next four years, they’ve got more than enough fantasy tentpoles to worry about for the next little while — but it is, at least, a possibility that I would not yet dismiss.