Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks to Leave Disney, Possibly for Universal

Steven Spielberg
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

DreamWorks will not renew its current distribution deal with the Walt Disney Co., which expires in August, sources have confirmed to Variety.

The Disney deal dates back to 2009, but since then Disney has acquired both Marvel and Lucasfilm, underlining its focus on branded, tentpole films.

Disney will release two more DreamWorks films, both directed by Steven Spielberg, before the deal expires: Tom Hanks’ Cold War thriller “Bridge of Spies” on Oct. 16 and “The BFG” on July 1.

“The BFG” is a co-production with Disney that will be Spielberg’s first Disney-branded film. All of the previous films from DreamWorks have been released under Disney’s Touchstone banner.

Sources also indicate that DreamWorks is most likely to wind up with a distribution deal at Universal while emphasizing that no agreement has been reached. They noted that Spielberg has kept his offices on the lot, even after the Disney deal was struck, and he was executive producer on Universal’s smash hit “Jurassic World.”

Universal, Disney and DreamWorks declined to comment.

With the Disney deal expiration coming in less than a year, DreamWorks execs have been in exploratory talks with other studios. Spielberg has committed to directing “Ready Player One” for Warner Bros., which recently set a release date for late 2017.

With Disney’s focus on big animated offerings, comic book adventures, and “Star Wars” spin-offs the kinds of adult-oriented, smaller pictures that DreamWorks made in recent years, such as “The Help” and “Lincoln,” often seemed like an awkward fit and a case of competing sensibilities.

DreamWorks’ current slate includes Lasse Hallstrom’s “A Dog’s Purpose,” which is in production; “The Girl on the Train,” directed by Tate Taylor with Emily Blunt starring; and “Ghost in the Shell,” starring Scarlett Johansson, which is set for release in March 2017, with Paramount handling international markets.

DreamWorks has relied on Indian entertainment conglomerate Reliance for financing since making the Disney deal. Stacey Snider left her post as DreamWorks CEO last year for a job at Fox and was replaced by veteran exec Michael Wright.

News about DreamWorks and Disney not renewing their deal was first reported by the Hollywood Reporter.

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  1. Michael says:

    Makes sense of Spielberg’s end. Disney is going in another direction and will have there hands tied with Marvel and Star Wars movies. Spielberg probably wants to go to a direction of more historical gritty movies.

  2. guest says:

    Good news, maybe we’ll less kiddie stuff in the future.

  3. Gabe says:

    well this is sad

  4. Raptor Politics says:

    Universal gave Spielberg a lifetime cut of Universal Studios theme park’s ticket sales, offices on their lot with no strings attached, and executive producer money on every Universal franchise he’s ever so much as looked at, and yet he still left them (after a string of bombs that they financed) to go try to make a few more bucks from a competitor. So much for loyalty.

    And now he’s back to fleece them for more after shitting on them for the past decade. Maybe he’ll gift them with more winners like Lincoln, War Horse and that French mo-cap POS that I can’t even remember the name of. Pikachu?

  5. Gordo says:

    Good, go. Maybe they can squeeze a few more dollars out of another studio.

  6. D Micheals Campbell says:

    This makes perfect sense…..Spielberg was always a Universal guy…having his offices there for the last 30 plus years….. Also..with Universal having new found clout ( money).. They can finally afford him.

  7. Frankie says:

    Lucky escape for Dreamworks. Disney is in the middle of producing a bunch of cold soulless franchise movies. It’s just a big faceless money monster now. Dreading how Star Wars is going to turn out.

    • tt says:

      90% of those films receive critical acclaims, but its your opinion anyway.
      and what makes you think Universal is better? They make more money than Disney. milking Jurassic World? 50 shades of gray? milking Despicable Me? oh please, at least all Disney animated films are pretty good if not great.

  8. Brent says:

    Why didn’t I see this coming? DreamWorks going to another studio. Even though DW used to be part of Universal (hard to explain).

  9. John Shutt says:

    While it probably wont happen, Disney should consider fully reviving the Touchstone label in the smae vein that Sony is doing for TriStar. Either way in terms of awards, getting Dreamworks could be a big win for Universal.

  10. Web Guru says:

    Whatever happened to the industry suit regarding an Animation cartel keeping salaries low to control artistic talent?

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