Since its much-ballyhooed founding in 1994, DreamWorks has been through quite a few different distinct eras. First it was a brand new studio, founded by Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen. Then, the DreamWorks Animation studio was spun off. Then, DreamWorks was bought by Paramount. Then, it re-emerged six years ago as a production company, with movies distributed by Disney.
Now, DreamWorks is entering another new era: DreamWorks will reportedly take its production company elsewhere, following the release of Spielberg’s Roald Dahl adaptation The BFG next summer. The comes after Disney and DreamWorks have been working together for six years, going back to 2009.
According to THR, The BFG will be the last DreamWorks film released through Disney, before the deal expires in August 2016. Spielberg, according to “the consensus among those with knowledge of the situation,” will then take DreamWorks to Universal. And where ever DreamWorks goes it looks will be well-capitalized: The deal will include a new investment of $200 million from Participant Media, and between $150 and $200 million more from additional sources.
A Universal deal would bring DreamWorks back into business with the studio where its offices have been located for the company’s entire history. It would also bring Spielberg back to the studio where he made the original Jurassic Park, and also served as an executive producer of this summer’s record-breaking Jurassic World. That urban legend about Spielberg starting his career by sneaking onto the Universal lot isn’t true, but he did work there on TV projects as a young man - and several of his most beloved films (including, Jaws, E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial, Schindler’s List and Munich) were distributed by the studio, along with the Jurassic Park movies.
Assuming the Universal deal goes through, it’s good news for fans of Steven Spielberg. The notion of Spielberg having ample freedom and financial resources to make the films he wants has worked out well in the past, and that arrangement continuing for as long as possible is something for which film fans should cheer. Also, the DreamWorks/Disney partnership was clearly not so successful, marked by lackluster releases like Cowboys & Aliens, Need for Speed and Delivery Man. Disney’s attention was clearly more focused on the lucrative bands that it owns - namely, Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm.
The initial DreamWorks dream from 1994 - a brand-new studio, with everything from movies to music - is dead and has been for a long time. But every indication is that Universal is a better place for what’s left of the dream than Disney.
Steven Spielberg’s next two directorial efforts - Bridge of Spies (which comes out October 16, 2015) and The BFG (arriving on July 1, 2016) - will be covered by the current DreamWorks/Disney deal. Spielberg will then direct Ready Player One (now scheduled for December 15th, 2017), which Warner Bros. is going to distribute in theaters.