Warner Independent Pictures was the specialty division of film studio Warner Bros. Entertainment. Established in August 2003, its first release was 2004's Before Sunset. The division financed, produced, acquired and distributed feature films largely budgeted under $20 million.
The use of independent in its name is not literal, as it is a division of Warner Bros., itself a division of media conglomerate Time Warner. Mark Gill was the division's first President. After a controversial departure, Gill was replaced by former Warner Bros. production executive Polly Cohen served as President of this division until fall 2008 when the company was officially shut down. While well-versed in big-budget motion picture production, it was widely believed Ms. Cohen did not have strong enough backgrounds in independent film, or in the marketing/publicity aspects of film distribution to hold that role. This led to a lackluster slate and output, after a successful initial run under Gill.
In February 2008, Warner Bros. announced that it would merge New Line Cinema into the parent studio. New Line's "independent" group Picturehouse was expected to be merged into Warner Independent as part of this process. On May 8, 2008, however, it was announced that both of these specialty divisions would be shut down. In 2013, Picturehouse was relaunched.
co-production with Pathé, Celador Films and FilmFour, which was sold to Fox Searchlight Pictures after Warner Independent closed. The main Warner Bros. studio logo, not the Independent one, now appears at the beginning of the film after the Fox Searchlight logo, and Warner retained distribution rights in some countries outside North America. However, Fox Searchlight is its distributor in North America, and FoxStar handles it in India, where the film is set. After Warner Independent closed, the film seemed destined to go straight to DVD before the deal with Fox Searchlight. Slumdog Millionaire would go on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.