NEW YORK — In a move expected to help boost DreamWorks’ theatrical output, the company has tapped ex-New Line exec Michael De Luca as head of production.
De Luca, 35, will be relied on to help the mini-studio push its output toward major-studio level, with the goal of eight to 12 releases each year. DreamWorks execs had previously explored other means to that same end, negotiating with several prominent production companies.
But they saw a good fit in De Luca, who was forced out at New Line in January after a successful 16-year run — seven as production prexy — finally hit the rocks.
De Luca, whose expected appointment was first reported by Daily Variety last month, will begin work within the next two weeks, taking over the post that was held temporarily by Jeffrey Katzenberg.
De Luca will become the first person to hold a title at DreamWorks, which has always disdained a corporate structure. He will report to Katzenberg and Walter Parkes, who with wife Laurie MacDonald are co-heads of DreamWorks Pictures.
While De Luca is being brought in to oversee development and production of projects and day-to-day exec tasks, he will not be replacing Parkes and MacDonald, who were rumored to be phasing out executive duties to become full time producers at the company.
“Mike has superb talent relationships with the younger generation of filmmakers,” said Parkes, “and he’s had fantastic success with lower budget pictures and will bring in a whole new set of filmmaking and acting talent into the DreamWorks fold.”
Parkes denied he and MacDonald were going anywhere.
“I think that Mike’s coming with actually help our longevity at DreamWorks,” said Parkes. “Most years, there tend to be three to five projects Laurie and I become personally involved in, and there are some that Steven Spielberg becomes very involved in. We also develop projects for Steven to direct and that leaves a vacuum. “We’re poised to move into a steady stream of production and want each film to have the personal attention it deserves. Mike’s perfect because he brings his own identity to the table and he’ll help us expand our slate.”
De Luca, who chose the DreamWorks job over a producing deal at New Line that would have given him $105 million in production financing over three years, said he sparked to DreamWorks’ exec team as well as the edgy movies it has made. It was not hard to leave the other deal on the table, one that had been prenegotiated into his last NL contract at a time when he’d presided over such hits as “Austin Powers 2,” “Rush Hour” and “Boogie Nights.”
“I had two issues, whether to go the producer route or remain an executive; and whether, after spending 16 years in the New Line environment, did I want to spend any more time there,” said De Luca. “I decided I didn’t want to produce at this point in my career, and once I made that decision, choosing DreamWorks was easy.
“After having four months of having moved on from New Line, I felt I should continue to move on as a personal growth issue. The financial incentive didn’t matter that much to me, it was more a quality of life issue.”
De Luca said he was eager to do the troubleshooting and managing tasks that Parkes and MacDonald were eager to spend less time on, and that he had no plans to oversee an executive overhaul. “I’m joining a winning team in progress and I hope everyone there now stays right where they are.”
Though DreamWorks has hatched the last two Best Picture Oscar winners in “American Beauty” and “Gladiator,” the studio’s production pace will be slightly less this year than it was last year. It has so far released “The Mexican” and “Shrek,” and is about to launch “Evolution.”
Parkes and MacDonald, who are now working on “Men in Black 2” (which will be Sony’s domestically), were similarly involved in the Spielberg-directed “A.I.” which Warner Bros. releases this month.