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by Eugene Hernandez
May 3, 2006 7:29 AM
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Gill Leaving Warner Independent; Surprise Move Raises Questions About Direction for Unit

At the New York Film Festival opening night party back in September, Warner Independent Pictures' chief Mark Gill (right) with director George Clooney. Photo by Brian Brooks/indieWIRE

Nearly three years after launching Warner Independent Pictures, the company's parent company, Warner Bros. Pictures, announced late Tuesday night that Mark Gill is leaving his post as president of the division. The news came as a complete surprise to people inside and outside of the company, raising questions about the future of a unit which is coming off a successful year with such hits as "March of the Penguins," "Paradise Now," and "Good Night, and Good Luck." However, a Warner Bros. spokesperson assured indieWIRE that the studio is committed to Warner Independent, while some speculated that a replacement could be announced very soon.

"A successor has not yet been determined, but we will announce future plans shortly," Warner Bros. EVP of Corporate Communications Susan Fleishman told indieWIRE late Tuesday, when asked to clarify the situation. "Warner Independent will absolutely remain a business. Warner Bros is firmly committed to this business and to Warner Independent."

Gill's exit is effective almost immediately. Today will be his last day as head of Warner Independent and he will quickly transition into a production deal at the studio, according to Warner Bros. Pictures president Jeff Robinov. Gill was not available for comment after the announcement.

The news marks the latest major change at an Indiewood company. In the past tumultous year, Miramax saw the Weinsteins leave, Paramount Classics was re-imagined with the arrival of John Lesher, Fine Line Features was shut down paving the way for Picturehouse, and even Focus Features recently saw its co-president take a top post at the company's parent studio.

“I am grateful to Alan Horn and Jeff Robinov for the opportunity to start and run Warner Independent, and I am thankful to our tiny group of 25 people -- most notably Laura Kim, Steven Friedlander, Paul Federbush, Tracey Bing and Erin O’Neil -- for their brilliant, impossibly hard work and the remarkable results they achieved," Gill said in a statement.

Just over a year ago, amidst widespread speculation regarding Gill's future at the company he launched, Robinov assured the industry, in an interview with The New York Times, that Gill was not going anywhere. Speculation and pointed reactions began almost immediately after Tuesday's announcement from L.A., which capped a day of rumors that Gill was leaving. Variety posed today that Warner Bros. studio production executive Polly Cohen may be in line to replace Gill. While over at MovieCityNews, the site noted, in a link, "Time-Warner Sees Fiscal Folly of WIP Business Model," and Nikki Finke, on her Deadline Hollywood Daily industry blog, asked succinctly in a headline, "Is Warner Bros. NUTS?"

"Mark has done a very good job of establishing Warner Independent, and we thank him for his contributions in positioning the company as a leader in this market," said Warner president Robinov in a statement late Tuesday. "He is a talented executive with a passion for making movies, and we are very pleased that he will remain on the Warner Bros. lot as a producer."

Gill joined Warner Independent when it was launched in August of 2003, from Stratus Film Co. Prior to that he was president of Miramax Films and has also worked as head of marketing at Columbia and TriStar Pictures. He worked for four years at Rogers & Cowan PR and was also a reporter for Newsweek and the Los Angeles Times.

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1 Comment

  • bert_duck | May 3, 2006 8:10 AMReply

    How long before they fold WIP into Picturehouse? Why does Time Warner need TWO arthouse divisions?!?My god, corporations are suppose to save and make money for their shareholders, not waste salaries on multiple staff positions.Mark Gill or Bob Berney. Bet Mark Gill does not produce one film over that two year period.