Sorry, Disney, but it seems Universal is on the verge of becoming DreamWorks new distributor. (Whoa! Totally didn’t see that coming.)
According to Sharon Waxman, Spielberg’s studio is thisclose to signing a distribution deal with Universal.
Waxword: DreamWorks has all-but-officially closed a distribution deal with Universal, with an announcement expected in the next few days, my sources tell me.
Three major studios were vying for the guaranteed cash that comes from the right to distribute DreamWorks’ movies. Now that the billion-dollar deal between the Steven Spielberg-David Geffen-and-Jeffrey Katzenberg machine and the Indian media conglomerate, Reliance, is closed, Universal, Fox, and Disney are all keeping communication lines open to get this deal done, according to two people close to the deal-making. A senior figure at DreamWorks said that the deal is not yet done, but that Spielberg would decide by the weekend. He declined to say who had the edge in the discussions…
Geffen is peeved at Universal for not putting up the cash to bring DreamWorks back onto the lot from Paramount in the first place, which forced the mini-studio to seek funding outside of Hollywood.
We don’t see this as a major wrinkle since Geffen won’t be involved with the new DreamWorks. Spielberg being miffed that Universal wouldn’t foot the bill for Tintin could possibly derail the deal, but given Spielberg’s long relationship with Universal, we expect he can forgive and forget, particularly since he was willing to keep his office on the Uni lot after DreamWorks was sold to Paramount.
Meanwhile Spielberg is non-plussed that Universal passed on the opportunity to co-finance his epic 3D animated adventure tale, “Tintin,” which he is making with director Peter Jackson. (Universal ran the numbers, and found that with the guaranteed gross paid to Spielberg and Jackson, the film would have to take in well over $400 million to be profitable for them.) Universal’s reticence has held up progress on the film, which had been scheduled to start principal photography in October.
Third, DreamWorks is seeking favourable distribution terms, in which they would be fronted cash by the studio, one person involved in talks tells me. Distribution deals are highly sought after by major studios, because it generates guaranteed cash for their bottom lines. They typically are able to charge 12 to 15 per cent of the box office in exchange for distribution, and in the past Universal distributed DreamWorks films for about nine per cent…In Hollywood terms, this will be a long-term deal, an alliance expected to last six years, well beyond the current development slate which is shared with Paramount.
Other sources have projected Universal would agree to an 8% distribution fee, and we echo our film-financing expert’s prediction back in July that if a rival studio offered a lower fee, DreamWorks would go with them. So, it’s not over yet. And given all the fake-outs on the Reliance deal we experienced this summer, we really aren’t believing this deal is done until we see the press release.
Meanwhile, Nikki Finke has more info about who will be joining Steven Spielberg and Stacey Snider at DreamWorks 2.0. Apparently for 15% of the studio’s 150 employees, the Dream is dead. Here’s the break down of who’s going and who’s staying.
-COO Jeff Small
-Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci (writers of Transformers, Mission: Impossible III, Eagle Eye and Star Trek)
-Holly Bario and Mark Sourian (co-presidents of production)
–Walter Parkes, Laurie Mac Donald, Nina Jacobson, Sam Mendes (producers)
–Ben Stiller’s Red Hour Films
-Adam Goodman (possibly president of production at Paramount)
-Ivan Reitman and Tom Pollock’s Montecito Picture Company
Finke adds that yesterday was when most of the staff found out their fate, and here’s how it went down, according to an insider: “Staff were getting called into rooms to let them know if they were staying or going. One room, with Holly and Mark in it, meant you were staying. The other, with the CFO in it, meant you were going.”
She says she’s also “assured that anyone not moving over will continue to be paid until their Paramount contract ends. But that’s cold comfort.”
Photo from Sharon Waxman
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