Guilt, Blame and Other Wreckage From the Picturehouse/WIP Crash

The eulogies are on following Thursday's twin killing of Picturehouse and Warner Independent Pictures by the executioners at Warner Bros. — or perhaps more accurately, by hooded, high-ranking Time Warner axeman Jeff Bewkes, to whom some today are attributing the death penalty that ended in nearly 75 lost jobs between the two mini-majors. While we still suspect that WIP's demise in cosmically linked to its acquisition of the poisonously atrocious Alan Ball film Towelhead (another blogger disagrees, citing Funny Games instead), at least a few other observers have more official diagnoses from the murder scene.

For starters, outgoing Picturehouse president Bob Berney told Variety that Warners' abdication of the art house is purely philosophical:

"Their decision was not to be in this business," he said. "It's not a reflection on me or Picturehouse. It's not their world."

Berney has no specific plans for a new job. "A lot of people want to do something — companies, investors. I am confident at the end of the day I will find something, but it needs to be a place that fits," he said. Berney added that he and several others from Picturehouse will be in Cannes as scheduled. WIP is sending a smaller contingent than originally planned.


This jibes with more of our suspicions from last week — that Berney wouldn't have shared control of a subsidiary shingle with WIP boss Polly Cohen (or anyone else for that matter) and he'd be on his own by next week's Cannes launch. Meanwhile, David Poland's got some of the best perspective on the matter so far, illustrating just what it takes for a "dependent" to succeed before later issuing a sober reality check to a mourning industry:

[A]m I genuinely sad for the good people of these two companies? Yes. Will I make some phone calls for a few of them when they write, looking for new jobs? Yes. But is losing two companies that put out less than 10 films a year and grossed less than $50 million a year total each on average, even with the financial backing - however lame - of major studios? Not a tragedy... just a reasonable business choice from businessmen who were not terribly smart or reasonable when they launched these divisions in the first place.

In other words: We may mourn, but the numbers don't. That's entertainment.