DreamWorks nears $1 billion

A first No.1 for studio

It may have taken more than a decade, but Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen’s DreamWorks finally leads in market share and is weeks away from crossing the $1 billion mark at the domestic box office.

DreamWorks and DreamWorks Animation can’t officially claim the crown, however, since they are no longer a single entity. Paramount officially distributes both their pictures.

Par owns DreamWorks, while DreamWorks Animation remains a standalone company.

But behind the scenes, there’s plenty for Geffen, Spielberg and Katzenberg to celebrate as they enjoy the sort of success that often eluded them as they tried to build DreamWorks into a major studio.

This year, their films have grossed roughly $980 million at the domestic box office, making up the lion’s share of Paramount’s B.O. bounty and turning Par into the market share leader at $1.1 billion, or 18.8%.

DreamWorks is virtually assured of crossing the $1 billion mark with the Oct. 4 release of Ben Stiller laffer “The Heartbreak Kid,” from Peter and Bobby Farrelly.

Warner Bros. is the next in line to crest the $1 billion mark, with its tally standing as of this week at $929.4 million. Behind Par, Warners is No. 2 in market share at 15.5%.

During the decade that the troika of Katzenberg, Spielberg and Geffen ran DreamWorks, the highest the studio ever rose in terms of market share was No. 4.

That was in 2004, DreamWorks’ best year, with total box office receipts of $925 million, according to Rentrak. That tally does not include grosses from “Meet the Fockers” and “Stepford Wives,” since they were co-productions and distributed by other studios.

In 2000, DreamWorks came in No. 5 in market share. Otherwise, DreamWorks came in No. 7 in market share three times; No. 8 once; and No. 10 three times.

Last week, Katzenberg downplayed rumors of tension between DreamWorks and Paramount and commended Par’s marketing and distribution team for the job it is doing in handling DreamWorks titles.

Every movie from DreamWorks has clicked this year, racking up more than $658 million in domestic ticket sales, the majority from “Norbit,” “Blades of Glory,” “Disturbia” and “Transformers.”

Anchored by “Shrek the Third,” titles from DreamWorks Animation have taken in roughly $322 million domestically.

In another score, “Transformers,” a passion project of Spielberg’s, gives DreamWorks its first live-action franchise.

DreamWorks, founded in 1994, released its first films in 1997. DreamWorks Animation was spun off into a separate company in 2004, while DreamWorks proper was acquired for $1.6 billion by Par parent Viacom in December 2005.

While the DreamWorks slate is bolstering Par this year, that was not the case last year.

Films from Paramount proper racked up roughly $613 million in domestic box office receipts in 2006. Combined, pics from DreamWorks and DreamWorks Animation that were distributed by Par drew $241 million.

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