An increasingly precarious independent film world claimed two more victims.


Warner Independent Pictures and Picturehouse -- respectively, the art-house film division of Warner Bros. and the indie movie arm of New Line Cinema -- are closing, Warner Bros. Chief Executive Alan Horn announced Thursday, the Los Angeles Times rerpots.


Many industry observers had been predicting a shakeup since February, when New Line merged with Warner Bros., its corporate sibling under the Time Warner umbrella. Since March, Warner Bros. was in talks with Picturehouse head Bob Berney about taking a co-presidency, along with WIP head Polly Cohen, of some new merged venture, though Warner Bros. decided ultimately that even one indie division was not feasible. More than 70 jobs will be eliminated.


"We're not abandoning the specialty business," Horn said in an interview. He suggested that this was more a decision to cut costs -- and rid themselves of duplicate production, marketing and distribution infrastructure -- than to cut independent films. "We still want to have movies like 'Pan's Labyrinth' or 'In the Valley of Elah' or 'La Vie en Rose.' But after a lot of introspection, we decided that, for us, what distinguishes a specialty movie from a big Warners movie isn't the marketing and distribution but the movie itself. So we'll still be looking for movies that interest us creatively. But when we make the movie or acquire the movie, we'll hand it over to our existing marketing and distribution group. They've proven they can handle any kind of film."


Although Warners has had success ushering mainstream hits "Million Dollar Baby" and "The Departed" to Oscar glory, it's unclear if the main studio has the chops to foster more quirky independent films such as "Little Miss Sunshine" or even this year's Oscar winner, "No Country for Old Men," which benefited from careful marketing and award campaigning from studios' specialty divisions.

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