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Robert Shaye

Robert Shaye

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Also Known As: Robert Kenneth Shaye, Bob Shaye Died:
Born: March 4, 1939 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Detroit, Michigan, USA Profession: executive, producer, distributor, director, actor, lawyer

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Hailed as "the quintessential independent," Shaye has masterminded the transformation of a modest homegrown "niche pic" operation into a leading film production and distribution studio over the course of the last 25 years. As the founder, president and chief executive officer of New Line Cinema, Shaye evolved from distributing 16mm foreign and "cult" films on the college and midnight circuit to having 25 projects scheduled for production between 1996 and 1998 at a cost of $520 million. New Line also successfully diversified into various fields including home video and TV programming distribution and launched its own art-film division. Not bad for a company that started out in a Greenwich Village apartment.While New Line generated ink in the mid-1990s by throwing around tens of millions of dollars--kindly supplied by Ted Turner's Turner Broadcasting Service which acquired the company in 1993--to attract big-name talent (reportedly offering $12 million to Julia Roberts and $8 million to Meg Ryan for a remake of "The Women") and hot screenplays, it originally built a reputation for fiscal conservatism. The company covered itself in advance by selling off foreign and ancillary rights for their ventures....

Hailed as "the quintessential independent," Shaye has masterminded the transformation of a modest homegrown "niche pic" operation into a leading film production and distribution studio over the course of the last 25 years. As the founder, president and chief executive officer of New Line Cinema, Shaye evolved from distributing 16mm foreign and "cult" films on the college and midnight circuit to having 25 projects scheduled for production between 1996 and 1998 at a cost of $520 million. New Line also successfully diversified into various fields including home video and TV programming distribution and launched its own art-film division. Not bad for a company that started out in a Greenwich Village apartment.

While New Line generated ink in the mid-1990s by throwing around tens of millions of dollars--kindly supplied by Ted Turner's Turner Broadcasting Service which acquired the company in 1993--to attract big-name talent (reportedly offering $12 million to Julia Roberts and $8 million to Meg Ryan for a remake of "The Women") and hot screenplays, it originally built a reputation for fiscal conservatism. The company covered itself in advance by selling off foreign and ancillary rights for their ventures. Their films were moderately budgeted, typically in the $5 million-to-$7 million range. Their theatrical releases were generally scheduled for off-peak moviegoing periods often ignored by the majors. New Line had two specialties: commercial genre movies geared for teens and special-interest "sophisticated" films targeting upscale adults.

Shaye's film career began with homemade productions he created as a teenager and reached a peak with such award-winning shorts as "Image" and "On Fighting Witches." He shared first prize with Martin Scorsese in the Society of Cinematologists's prestigious Rosenthal competition given to the best films made by American directors under the age of 25 and, after completing an impressive graduate career (Sorbonne, Columbia) with a Fulbright scholarship, founded the New Line Cinema Corporation in 1967.

Beginning as a small, privately owned distributor of art films (including Lina Wertmuller's "The Seduction of Mimi" 1972, Orson Welles' "F for Fake" 1973, Bertrand Blier's Oscar-winning "Get Out Your Handkerchiefs" 1977, R.W. Fassbinder's "Despair" 1978, Bill Forsyth's "Gregory's Girl" 1981, and Whit Stillman's "Metropolitan" 1989), New Line also, perhaps prophetically, handled the circulation of George Romero's low-budget cult classic, "Night of the Living Dead" (1968). Later in the 70s, New Line enjoyed a more broad-based commercial success with its distribution of the "Street Fighter" series of films and a successful re-release of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (made in 1974).

The 80s saw Shaye leading New Line more in the direction of film production, specializing in modestly budgeted horror fare ("Critters" 1986, "The Hidden" 1987), occasional youth-oriented comedies (including two John Waters films, "Polyester" 1981 and "Hairspray" 1988, and "Book of Love" 1990, a faux 50s teen comedy directed by Shaye) and such comparatively adult fare as "A Handful of Dust" and "Torch Song Trilogy" (both 1988).

By far the best known and most popular of New Line's products have been the series of horror sequels that followed in the wake of the huge success of writer-director Wes Craven's imaginative "A Nightmare on Elm Street" (1984). As the dream-dwelling supernatural killer-cum-wiseacre Freddy Krueger, actor Robert Englund became the first notable horror star since the advent of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. The popularity of the films and the successful domestic and foreign merchandising of Freddy-related products fueled the expansion of New Line in the second half of the 80s. Englund remained in character to host Shaye's first foray into TV production, the intriguing horror anthology series "Freddy's Nightmares" (syndicated, 1988-90). By the end of 1989, however, New Line's net profits had sharply declined after the disappointing box-office performance of "A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child." Fortunately help was on the way--from a most unlikely source.

For the relatively modest cost of $2 million, New Line made it's most ambitious acquisition, picking up all North American distribution rights to "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" (1990), a $12 million children's action feature produced by Hong Kong's Golden Harvest Films and lensed in North Carolina. The film became a pop culture phenomenon that went on to gross more than $133 million domestically and generated two sequels. New Line enjoyed an in-house success with Reginald Hudlin's amiable black-themed youth comedy "House Party" (1990) which spawned two sequels of its own.

Late in 1990, New Line Cinema announced the formation of Fine Line Features, a new theatrical division dedicated to producing, distributing and marketing so-called art films, that is, films geared for a sophisticated adult audience. The preceding decade had marked a shift in emphasis to commercial youth-oriented fare at New Line while the adult niche was addressed less frequently. Fine Line was conceived to specialize in and nurture the likes of Hal Hartley's "Simple Men" (1992), Robert Altman's "Short Cuts" (1993), Gus Van Sant Jr.'s "My Own Private Idaho" (1991) and "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues" (1994) and Keith Gordon's "Mother Night" (1996). The company enjoyed its first art-house hit as the distributor of Scott Hicks' highly praised Aussie biopic "Shine" (1996).

New Line focused on the youth market, particularly in urban areas, with such efforts as Bill Duke's "Deep Cover" (1992), the Hughes Brothers' "Menace II Society" (1993) and "Wes Craven's New Nightmare" (1994). The latter was a cleverly reflexive sequel which attempted to rehabilitate the character who had proven so central in New Line's success story. Shaye appeared in the film as himself. The company enjoyed blockbuster success with two broad comedies starring the then ascendant Jim Carrey, "The Mask" and "Dumb and Dumber" (both 1994). They fared less well in 1995 with John Carpenter's enjoyable thriller "In the Mouth of Madness" and the charming romantic comedy "Don Juan DeMarco" starring Johnny Depp and Marlon Brando. In 1996, New Line suffered a succession of pricey misfires: an unintentionally hilarious remake of "The Island of Doctor Moreau" starring Brando and Val Kilmer; Walter Hill's stylish "Last Man Standing," which retold Kurosawa's samurai classic "Yojimbo" as a gangster vehicle for Bruce Willis; and "The Long Kiss Goodnight," an underperforming actioner featuring Geena Davis and Samuel L Jackson helmed by Renny Harlin. That same year, however, New Line had a solid success with the modestly budgeted "Set It Off," a black feminist-themed crime drama with Queen Latifah and Jada Pinkett, that hearkened back to its earlier modest triumphs.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
2.
  Book of Love (1990) Director

CAST: (feature film)

2.
 Festival in Cannes (1999) Bert Shuster
3.
 Divine Trash (1998)
4.
 Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994) Himself
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1954:
At age 15 wrote, produced, and directed training film for the carryout boys at his father's supermarket
:
Won grand prize, split with a young Martin Scorsese, for a short entered in a national competition for under-25-year-olds
:
Wrote, produced, directed and edited short films, trailers and television commercials
1967:
Founded New Line Cinema Corporation out of his Greenwich Village apartment; served as president and chief executive officer
:
Initially specialized in distributing 16mm films on the college circuit
:
Distributed features as diverse as "Reefer Madness" and Jean-Luc Godard's experimental documentary "Sympathy for the Devil" (marketing the latter as a rock'n'roll film)
1973:
Acquired John Waters' breakthrough feature "Pink Flamingos" for distribution; beginning of New Line's long association with writer-director Waters
1977:
Feature producing debut, "Stunts", a suspenser for which he also provided the story
1981:
Credited as executive producer on Waters' first mainstream comedy, "Polyester"
1984:
New Line produced and distributed its first major hit with Wes Craven's "A Nightmare on Elm Street"; began successful franchise
1986:
Completed an initial public offering of New Line on the stock market in September; remained controlling stockholder
1988:
Increased New Line's production slate to at least 12 films per year, at an average production budget of $5-7 million
1988:
TV producing debut, executive produced "Freddy's Nightmares", a syndicated horror anthology series inspired by the popular "A Nightmare on Elm Street" movies
1988:
New Line achieved record profits and sales at the end of the fiscal year, buoyed by the success of "A Handful of Dust", "A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master" and Waters' "Hairspray" and the domestic and foreign merchandizing of products related to Freddy Kruger of the "Nightmare" films
1989:
New Line made its most ambitious acquisition picking up all North American distribution rights to "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles", produced by Hong Kong's Golden Harvest Film
1989:
New Line's net profit fell 86 percent for the year ending December 31; loss attributed to relatively poor performance of "A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child"; only one in-house produced film that year
1990:
Announced largest slate to date with seven in-house productions and eight acquisitions
1990:
New Line produced and distributed Reginald Hudlin's "House Party", a black teen-oriented comedy which became one of their most profitable features to date
1990:
"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" grossed more than $133 million domestic (New Line had only paid $2 million to distribute)
1990:
Made feature directorial debut with "Book of Love"
1990:
Launched New Line Home Video
1990:
With Chemical Bank putting up the bulk of the money, New Line invested in RHI Entertaionment thereby gaining access to RHI's 1,000-title Qintex/Halmi/Hal Roach Library
1990:
Launched Fine Line, a division of New Line devoted to producing, distributing and marketing art films; features produced include "My Own Private Idaho" and "Hoop Dreams"
1991:
New Line bought out Media Home Entertainment's share of the "Nightmare on Elm Street" series
1991:
New Line Television Distribution formed; operated as a division of RHI Entertainment Inc.
1991:
New Line acquired distribution rights to Nelson Entertainment's library of 600 films and subsequent foreign theatrical and worldwide video rights to all Castle Rock product; Castle Rock's "Misery", directed by Rob Reiner, first release of New Line Home Video
1992:
New Line teamed with financier John Kluge to attempt to buy Orion Pictures Corp. out of bankruptcy; later abandoned effort
1993:
New Line acquired by Turner Broadcasting System Inc.; Shaye paid $100 million; signed five-year management contract to continue as president and CEO
1994:
New Line signed newlywed actress Geena Davis and director Renny Harlin to two-year, production and development first look, non-exclusive deal
1994:
Appeared as himself in "Wes Craven's New Nightmare", a superior and reflexive horror sequel
1995:
Named in a $5,000 small-claims court suit against New Line for failing to pay actor Brian Evans residuals for the preceding three years for his work in "Book of Love" (which Shaye helmed)
1996:
New Line announced its intent to produce 25 features over the next two years at a cost of $520 million
2001:
Produced "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy through New Line Cinema
2007:
Returned to directing with "The Last Mimzy"
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Education

University of Michigan: Ann Arbor , Michigan - 1960
Sorbonne, University of Paris: - 1961
Columbia University Law School: New York , New York - 1964
University of Stockholm: - 1964 - 1966

Notes

Shaye was chosen for the 1995 Pioneer of the Year award given by the Foundation of the Motion Picture Pioneers at their 57th dinner on December 11, 1995. Intended for entertainment executives who have distinguished themselves through their jobs and their dedication to charitable causes, the award's previous recipients include Laurence A. Tisch, Mike Medavoy, Frank Mancuso and Sumner Redstone. Ppresident Clinton and Ted Turner sent their regards.

Shaye speaks proudly of New Line Cinema's approach: "We believe we are different from many other entertainment companies. We are not financiers and distributors; we are producers and distributors. The difference is important. We know the only way to make money in this business is to deliver films people want to see. We stand by our theme: New Line Cinema--We Make Entertainment." (from press release material)

Shaye was named as a Fulbright Scholar and studied copyright law (1964-66)

He is the recipient of the First Prize, Rosenthal competition, for the Best Motion Picture by an American Director Under the Age of 25, sponsored by the Society of Cinematologists (1964)

Shaye has received an award in the ASCAP/Nathan Burkan Memorial Competition (1964)

He is the recipient of the Certificate of Merit from the Institute of Copyrights and Patents at the University of Stockholm (1966)

Serves as a member of the New York Bar Association

Shaye was honored with the Career Achievement Award at the fourth annual ShoEast exhibitors convention in 1989, sponsored by the National Association of Theater Owners

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Eva G Lindsten. Married in 1970.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Max Mendle Shaye. Supermarket owner, artist.
mother:
Dorothy Shaye.
sister:
Lin Shaye. Actor. Appeared in "Kingpin" and "There's Something About Mary".
daughter:
Katja Shaye.
daughter:
Juno Shaye.
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