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TV Exec Michael Wright to Replace Departing DreamWorks Chief Stacey Snider in January

TV Exec Michael Wright to Replace Departing DreamWorks Chief Stacey Snider in January

A pressing question in Hollywood has been what happens after Stacey Snider leaves DreamWorks (and its financing partner Reliance and distributor Disney) for Fox. Well, Steven Spielberg has found a replacement for his departing DreamWorks chief executive. Michael Wright, who last month left his gig as president and programming chief at TNT, TBS and Turner Classic Movies, will take over as DreamWorks CEO –though not a partner–on January 3, 2015. Production president Holly Bario will run DreamWorks creative until Wright comes aboard, with Jeff Small continuing as DreamWorks president and chief operating officer. Kristie Macosko Krieger will be a DreamWorks producer. 

Snider has been “an important part of my life for two decades and I want to acknowledge her many accomplishments at the company as well as her friendship and counsel which have been so important to me,” stated Spielberg.  “I’d also like to express my appreciation for her guidance and support throughout the transition.”

His selection underscores yet again the direction most intelligent producers of filmed entertainment in Hollywood feel they must go: television. Spielberg has been in those waters for many years and worked with Wright on such DreamWorks-produced TNT shows as “Falling Skies,” and the miniseries “Into the West.” Spielberg will stay in charge of Amblin Television, which is run by Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey. “I have had the pleasure of working alongside Michael for many years and have come to know him as a talented executive whose creative vision, leadership, and passion are a perfect fit for our company,” Spielberg stated. “He has akeen understanding of storytelling and how to deliver those stories in every shape and size, regardless of platform.”smnider

Wright’s ascension is a stark reminder of where DreamWorks is putting its emphasis going forward–in order to survive. Over the past few months Snider has been getting things in order before her imminent departure to run Fox. Her contract expires in November, and she leaves with blessings from Spielberg, David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg, who lured her to join him at Fox, along with News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch and motion picture chairman Jim Gianopulos. The box Snider had to function inside at DreamWorks had gotten ever smaller–hits “Lincoln” and “The Help” were not easy to push up the hill, and she wound up supervising three recent disappointments–“The Fifth Estate,” “Delivery Man” and “Need for Speed.” But recent “The One Hundred Foot Journey” has earned more than $41 million domestically so far. The studio’s diminished slate of four films a year contributed to Snider’s wish to return to a more challenging creative arena. 

Ten years after ex-actor Wright went to Turner Broadcasting in 2002, he became president and head of programming TNT, TBS and TCM, and announced his departure last month. After he left packaging projects at CAA he became VP of movies and miniseries at CBS. TNT hits include summer smash “The Last Ship,” “Legends,” “Rizzoli & Isles” and “Major Crimes,” a “The Closer” spin-off. He also mounted “Southland,” “Men of a Certain Age,” and took “Couger Town” to TBS after its ABC cancelation. 
On the Spielberg movie docket are, first, the Coen brothers-written Cold War thriller with Tom Hanks set to star (October 16, 2015). The story centers on the true story of James Donovan, an American attorney recruited by the CIA to negotiate with the KGB for the release of downed U-2 spy plane pilot Gary Powers. A September production start is planned. Spielberg, Marc Platt and Kristie Macosko Krieger are producing.

Next up is “The BFG,” adapted from Roald Dahl’s 1982 children’s classic by “E.T.” writer Melissa Mathison (July 1, 2016). DreamWorks acquired rights in 2011 to “BFG,” the story of a Big Friendly Giant who makes friends with a young orphan girl. Frank Marshall is now producing solo, as partner Kathleen Kennedy runs Lucasfilm; over the development of “BFG” several directors have come and gone, including Chris Columbus and John Madden, who executive produces with Michael Siegel.

In the wings are Tony Kushner’s adaptation of David Kertzer’s novel “The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara,” in partnership with Weinstein Co.; and Chris Hemsworth-starrer “Robopocalypse,” a Fox/DreamWorks co-production, where Snider is heading; and “Montezuma,” from a screenplay originally written by Dalton Trumbo in the 1950s. DreamWorks brought on screenwriter Steve Zaillian — writer of “Moneyball,” Fincher’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and Oscar-winner for Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List” — to rewrite the script.  Javier Bardem is in talks to play Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes. 
Meanwhile, another Tintin sequel is still to come, although that will likely revert to Peter Jackson. Spielberg wanted to learn how to play in the CGI toy box, but is wedded to live action. DreamWorks partner Disney has paid a pretty penny to bring Spielberg and Lucasfilm’s “Indiana Jones” franchise from Paramount to the Disney fold, and Spielberg has long expressed an interest in John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath.” And what ever happened to that George Gershwin biopic with Zachary Quinto?

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