It’s official: DreamWorks has entered into an exclusive distribution deal with Disney, while leaving its deal with Universal in the dust. All of this was tied to the $250 million DreamWorks needed to keep their deal with an Indian entertainment company alive.
Here’s a little backstory behind this whole thing: As you may know, Steven Spielberg (whose Amblin Entertainment production company was with Universal for years), Jeffrey Katzenberg (once the CEO at Disney), and David Geffen all formed DreamWorks SKG in 1994, and began releasing TV shows, movies, and music as a major studio.
Fast-forward several years later, and DreamWorks decided it doesn’t want to be a studio anymore and it hooks up with Paramount Pictures. There were quite a few successful movies coming out of the joint venture, including the mega-hit Transformers in 2007. Unfortunately, behind-the-scenes tensions escalated between DreamWorks and Paramount bosses.
After an amicable split from Paramount, DreamWorks struck a mega-deal with Reliance BIG Entertainment, a Bollywood company located in India to co-finance their films. Universal Studios would distribute and market the films in North America and likely other territories as well, while Reliance released the films in India.
That deal was in danger when DreamWorks needed $250 million in capital, and apparently they tried changing their terms with Universal to get more money. Universal balked, so DreamWorks started talking to Disney, and BAM!, they struck a new and more lucrative deal. Disney will distribute and market up to six live-action movies a year, starting in 2010. (Transformers will stay at Paramount with DreamWorks co-producing.)
Looks like that little money “hiccup” got ironed out with the new Disney deal, but DreamWorks Animation is not part of this deal. In 2004, the animation giant split from its parent company and became its own entity, so no Toy Story/Shrek crossover movies. I don’t know what Universal will do, but I doubt it’ll be anything. We’ll see.