Spielberg, Reliance reportedly near film venture deal
LONDON - Steven Spielberg and other principals behind DreamWorks SKG are nearing an agreement to form a new movie venture with India's Reliance ADA Group, according to a media report.
Under the arrangement, Spielberg and other DreamWorks founders will receive up to $600 million in equity to launch the new venture, in which Reliance will have a large stake, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.
The new venture is likely to seek out an additional $500 million in debt financing to fund the development of about six films a year. The new venture would then select a major studio to help distribute the films, the report said. Spielberg and DreamWorks co-founder David Geffen are under contract to Viacom's Paramount Pictures, which bought the studio in 2006. Relations between Spielberg and Viacom have reportedly soured since DreamWorks was sold.
Standard & Poor's Equity analyst Tuna Amobi says Viacom's financials would not be "materially hurt" should DreamWorks distribute its films with another studio. He also says such a move is "unlikely" to affect Paramount's long-term distribution deal with DreamWorks Animation.
Universal Pictures or News Corp.'s Twentieth Century Fox could end up distributing DreamWorks' product, the Journal said.
Mumbai-based Reliance ADA Group controls Reliance Big Entertainment, which last month announced several financing deals with Hollywood's biggest names, including Tom Hanks, George Clooney, Jim Carrey and Brad Pitt, the newspaper reported.
Hollywood has had to increasingly turn to foreign backers amid recent turmoil on Wall Street, according to the report.
For its part, Reliance, controlled by India's Ambani family, is attempting to become a global media player, building on the strength of India's own film industry, headquartered in Mumbai and nicknamed Bollywood.
Paramount is flying high right now on the strength of two summer releases that are expected to top the $300 million mark in the United States - "Iron Man" and "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull."
DreamWorks Animation's "Kung Fu Panda" has taken in well over $100 million during its first two weeks in release.
DreamWorks was formed in 1994 by Geffen, Spielberg and former Walt Disney Co. executive Jeffrey Katzenberg. Katzenberg formed the separate, publicly traded DreamWorks Animation operation when Geffen and Spielberg joined Paramount. DreamWorks Animation has a distribution deal with Paramount that is likely to remain in effect even if Geffen and Spielberg depart.