DreamWorks has moved on.
Or have they? The Paramount divorce is final. DreamWorks is now a true indie, having ridden through the worst of last year’s financial storm via cash floated from Steven Spielberg and new DreamWorks partner, India’s Reliance. Still based at Spielberg’s old Amblin digs on the Universal lot, and having evicted Harvey Weinstein from Spielberg’s floor in the Tribeca building, DreamWorks and J.P. Morgan have raised the millions to proceed with making six films a year. When Universal couldn’t meet their needs, DreamWorks pacted with Disney for distribution (under the Touchstone label).
And they paid Paramount to take away 17 projects, which are now moving forward under DreamWorks partner Stacey Snider and production co-presidents Holly Bario and Mark Sourian, from high-brow biopic Lincoln to Cowboys & Aliens with Jon Favreau. Paramount has the right to cherrypick the ones it wants to co-finance, but so far has not stepped in. DreamWorks left many projects behind at Paramount in various stages of development and completion, from Montecito’s Hotel for Dogs, The Uninvited and I Love You, Man to The Soloist. The first film to be co-produced by the two entities is the currently filming Dinner for Schmucks, Jay Roach’s French remake starring Steve Carell.
As the year draws to an end, Paramount is looking so relatively solid–after years of management turmoil–that the NYT recently published a studio turnaround story. Home video revenue is up–partly due to the year’s top-grossing blockbuster, Michael Bay’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen ($833 million worldwide) which was made by Paramount and DreamWorks. Paramount also collected huge profits on a tiny DreamWorks acquisition: the micro indie Paranormal Activity grossed $107 million. The exec who championed the pic was ex-DreamWorks production chief Adam Goodman, who is now running production at the studio.
And Paramount also has plenty to crow about in the awards derby. Front and center in the Oscar pack is Jason Reitman’s Up in the Air, developed and packaged at DreamWorks and Montecito, but green-lit, produced and released after the divorce by Paramount, which placed a strange, meaningless title card on the front of the movie in place of the DreamWorks logo: DW Studios.
That title came as a shock to DreamWorks’ Spielberg and Snider, who weren’t consulted about it. (Neither was Montecito.) Where was the DreamWorks logo? With Up in the Air a strong, well-marketed Oscar contender, Paramount is happy to claim it as their own. @DW_Studios is actually DreamWorks’ twitter name. And it’s the name of the entity left behind at Paramount when DreamWorks took their name with them. Spielberg took the affront as a vengeful “fuck you,” whether or not it was intended as such.
Less divisive is Peter Jackson’s $70-million The Lovely Bones, also a DreamWorks project. That arduous labor of love was produced before the split. Paramount hopes that the exquisitely-wrought film will play well to teen girls when it broadens in January. But The Lovely Bones will not, except for Stanley Tucci, be a factor in the Oscar race. DreamWorks’ name is all over that one.
Even the Coen brothers’ upcoming True Grit , starring Matt Damon, Josh Brolin and Jeff Bridges as Marshall Cogburn, was a Paramount library title developed at DreamWorks–it’s based on the original Charles Portis novel, not the John Wayne classic. Spielberg’s deal on the Paramount movies is that he can choose to come in as producer and collect his fees on the movies that get made. It remains to be seen if Spielberg will see fit to collaborate with Paramount ever again.