A structure may be emerging that theoretically would allow DreamWorks to solve its identity crisis while staying within the Paramount and Viacom fold.
Looking to soothe tensions, Paramount will start reporting box office receipts for DreamWorks titles under the newly created DreamWorks-Paramount banner. The arrangement will begin this weekend with the bow of Ben Stiller laffer “The Heartbreak Kid,” but the accommodation was made several months ago when the overall DreamWorks deal was re-negotiated.
“It was important to (Geffen and Spielberg) that things be clear in term of the movies that are theirs,” a Par exec said.
This could help to pave the way for a scenario in which DreamWorks becomes more of an autonomous production company, with the ability to raise outside money, in addition to its allotment from Paramount.
Whatever the case, concession indicates that Par is trying to do what it can to save the DreamWorks marriage and keep Steven Spielberg and David Geffen from bolting at the end of 2008. But there is still skepticism on both sides that the chasm can be bridged in view of all the bad blood.
Spielberg and Geffen have contended that Par and its parent Viacom have not given DreamWorks its proper due considering that DreamWorks has delivered a string of B.O. hits this year that has propelled Paramount to the top in market share. With Paramount as the distrib, coin for DreamWorks pics has been reported in the media and by B.O. data providers as falling under the Paramount banner.
As such, the new DreamWorks-Paramount label — “DW/Par” for short — is designed to give DreamWorks public recognition of its box office successes.
Relations between DreamWorks and Par came under further strain last month when Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman told Wall Street that the impact of the loss of the DreamWorks team would be completely immaterial to to Viacom’s bottom line. At the same time, he said that “we’re doing everything possible” to make Steven Spielberg happy. Speaking at the same media confab the next day, DreamWorks Animation topper Jeffrey Katzenberg shot back that Spielberg is a “national treasure.”
Under the new arrangement, official box office reporting sites such as Rentrak and Nielsen EDI will list DreamWorks titles under DreamWorks-Paramount, instead of just Paramount. Also, final credits will say the film was distributed by DreamWorks-Paramount.
With the release of “Heartbreak Kid,” directed by the Peter and Bobby Farrelly, DreamWorks is likely to cross the $1 billion mark at the domestic box office this year for the first time in its history, although that tally includes coin from DreamWorks Animation’s “Shrek the Third.” DreamWorks Animation was spun off into a separate company in 2004.
Paramount bought the rest of DreamWorks in late 2005.
The new DreamWorks-Paramount banner is not the only concession Par has made. This spring, Paramount and Viacom upped DreamWorks’ annual production budget from $350 million to $400 million and gave DreamWorks CEO/co-chair Stacey Snider authority to greenlight a movie with a production budget of up to $100 million from a previous $85 million. If Spielberg is directing, she can greenlight a movie with a budget of up to $140 million.