'The Hobbit' is Safe! (And Other Grim Fallout from New Line's Demise)

The forthcoming evisceration of New Line Cinema announced yesterday by founding bosses Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne was expected for a while now, but where the pieces would fall was anyone's guess. It still is to some degree, but as the grim news settles in and Time Warner overlord Jeff Bewkes' intentions come to light, we can start parsing the good, bad and the ugly wrought from New Line's demise:

THE EXECS ARE PACKING... In addition to Shaye and Lynne, production boss Toby Emmerich has one of the 600 jobs threatened by the New Line overhaul. New Line's indie label Picturehouse, fresh off hard-won Oscar victories for La Vie en Rose but stranded by HBO's recent divestment from the company, is on deathwatch as well; it will likely be absorbed by Warner's own boutique shingle Warner Independent.

... BUT THE HOBBIT IS SAFE! Sort of. Assuming Bewkes can square up with the J.R.R. Tolkien estate, which is suing for not only the $150 million it says its still owed from The Lord of the Rings franchise but also to reclaim film rights to other Tolkien work, the long-delayed, two-part Hobbit prequels will forge ahead for release in 2010 and 2011.

FEWER MOVIES, MORE BLOOD. Warner Bros. is expected to slash production by at least a third, maxing out around 20 releases per year. Harkening back to the label's early, sleazy John Waters/Wes Craven days, New Line will handle the low-budget horror and comedy portion of the slate. Expect less Be Kind Rewind, in other words, and more Semi-Pro.

BRETT RATNER IS SAD. The noted fauxteur, whose lowbrow excretions from Money Talks to the Rush Hour franchise puddled in the New Line supply chain for the last decade, told The Hollywood Reporter: "They are family, and it's like seeing your family fall apart. ... Bob [Shaye] is the guy who bought the first pencil for New Line Cinema." Alas, if only marketing $70 million studio releases was as easy as calling Staples.

INTERNATIONAL POTENTIAL. The Golden Compass was the most recent and most expensive example of New Line's practice of selling off foreign territories for upfront productions costs, costing the studio nearly 75 percent of the film's $330 million global box office. WB's international presence means it can keep those rights, though it's mostly too-little, too-late with New Line's output deals soon expiring and cheap genre films pledged for the future.

NIKKI FINKE GETS TO BE EXTRA-ANNOYING. Yet another foregone conclusion appearing on Deadline Hollywood Daily begins with Finke shouting "TOLDJA!", thus terminating Gary Busey's all-too-short reign as Scariest Hollywood Trendsetter.