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Warner Latest Victim: Studio-ification of "Indie" Studios Continues

ReelPolitik By Anthony Kaufman | ReelPolitik May 9, 2006 at 3:07AM

Warner Latest Victim: Studio-ification of "Indie" Studios Continues
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One of the defining aspects of the big 2004 "screener ban" court case—which saw indie plaintiffs fighting against the MPAA's decision to forbid their subsidiaries from sending out DVD "screeners"--was the way the specialized studio divisions rolled over and stayed quiet, rather than campaign alongside the indie producers who were essentially working on their behalf.

With the exception of pro-screener Harvey Weinstein, the only other mini-major exec to take part in the court proceedings was Warner Independent Pictures chief Mark Gill--recently ousted in favor of a new inside-studio corporate-friendly exec--who ironically testified against the indies. (Producer Jeffrey Levy-Hinte told me at the time, "He tried to do what was right in serving his employer.")

Well, little good it did him. Gill is now out on the street because he couldn't make nice with Warner Bros. production president Jeff Robinov. Maybe it was all those foreign art movies (Paradise Now, Duck Season or auteur films (Good Night, and Good Luck, A Scanner Darkly) that got Gill into trouble. Speaking about new hire Polly Cohen, Robinov told indieWIRE, "It should come as no surprise that Polly's [tone and philosophy] is in line with mine." Just what we need: another "indie" division that toes the line of its corporate parent.

This is this kind of reasoning that killed United Artists, morphed Paramount Classics, makes Fox Searchlight target teens, and keeps foreign films off theater screens. It kills risk and it destroys art.