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February 28, 2008

RIP Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne

Shaye That swinging sword of Damocles has finally dropped. Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne, the co-chairmen of New Line Cinema, are no more; Time-Warner president & CEO Jeff Bewkes has officially folded the independent studio into Warner Brothers, which becomes that much bigger a major studio. Shaye, the founder of the studio, and Lynne, his lawyer-turned-longtime partner, are stepping down; in a memo to their staff they wrote that doing so "was a painful decision, because we love New Line and the people who work here have been like our second families. But we will be leaving the company with enormous pride in what all of us at New Line have accomplished together." Does Shaye regret selling his boutique studio to Ted Turner (and thus Time-Warner) in 1994? That seems likely. For all of the mogul's peculiarities and Lynne's distemper, New Line did indeed contribute great films to American culture. There was the great leap of faith that became the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, but Shaye also backed the visionary Paul Thomas Anderson and the early work of David Fincher, allowing the former to keep 'Magnolia' at its gloriously unmarketable length, and the latter to keep Gwyneth Paltrow's head in a box in "Seven." Losing another independent outlet for film is much to be regretted in an industry where there are precious few places to grant a green light. At left is the pair pictured at the Britannia awards in the fall where they were recognized for their contribution to film. It was the kind of recognition that Shaye -- who despite a legendary temper has seemed to get more sentimental with each passing month -- had kept hoping and angling for in this, the landmark 40th year of his studio. Instead, it was a valedictory moment. I, for one, will miss his voice in the raucous free-for-all that is Hollywood.