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Reliance staying in DreamWorks biz

But India-based backer wants Spielberg blockbusters

DreamWorks’ financing deal with Reliance Entertainment will extend to a second, smaller round that allows the studio to make up to five movies per year, but with a potential catch: The India-based financier wants to back more tentpole-sized, vfx-driven hits from Steven Spielberg and company, not period dramas like “War Horse” or his upcoming “Lincoln.”

The original 2009 arrangement was a $325 million Reliance investment in DreamWorks; terms of the extension were not immediately disclosed, but the amount would be less thanthat in the initial round, with sources pegging it between $200 million and $300 million. No banks have yet signed on to participate, and the deal has not yet closed.

DreamWorks and Reliance had no comment Tuesday. But sources familiar with the situation said the additional coin will allow DreamWorks to produce three to five films per year (likely on the high side of that estimate), including big-budget blockbusters such as Spielberg’s upcoming sci-fi adaptation “Robopocalypse.” That project is likely to please Reliance, which sources close to the situation said is agitating for Spielberg to make more of the f/x-heavy popcorn fare he was known for earlier in his career.

The initial investment deal included a break period to reassess the relationship and decide whether to go forward with another round. That took place in the first few months of this year, and now the financier is moving forward on these new terms, which were first reported by the New York Times.

The sides structured the initial deal that way because in 2008 and 2009, when the financial crisis walloped the credit markets, DreamWorks could not raise the $1 billion-plus it had sought to relaunch the company. So it went with Reliance but built in an out option for both sides.

DreamWorks is minimizing its risk (and its upside) on “Robopocalypse” by having 20th Century Fox co-finance the pic. The studio has even sought financial partners on movies budgeted under $100 million, with Participant Media pitching in to back “The Help” and “Lincoln.”

DreamWorks faced some setbacks last year, primarily the disappointing performance of Jon Favreau’s “Cowboys and Aliens,” in which the company had a 50% stake, with Relativity and Universal taking 25% each.

DreamWorks will continue to release its live-action films through Disney, which will likely mount an awards campaign for “Lincoln” when it is released in December. Its next release is drama “People Like Us” on June 29.

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