DreamWorks, Paramount settle split

Studios hammer out separation agreement

Paramount and DreamWorks have hammered out a joint arrangement for up to 40 development projects.

As part of the separation agreement, DreamWorks will take the lead on 15-20 projects, with Paramount retaining an option to co-finance and co-distribute the films.

Deal was worked on throughout the weekend by Viacom general counsel Michael Fricklas and Par vice chairman Rob Moore (for Paramount) and David Geffen and attorney Skip Brittenham (on behalf of DreamWorks). Geffen will not be joining the new DreamWorks.

Though the two companies declined to list the projects affected because filmmakers are still being contacted, insiders say two Steven Spielberg directing vehicles — “The 39 Clues” and “The Trial of the Chicago 7” — as well as the Sacha Baron Cohen comedy “Dinner With Schmucks” are among the titles.

Similarly, Paramount will take the lead on another 15-20 projects, with DreamWorks holding an option to co-finance. Paramount will keep in its fold the remainder of the 200 DreamWorks-developed projects, and DreamWorks will no longer be involved creatively or financially.

Deal looks like a win-win for both studios, with Par dropping a lot of overhead but retaining top projects.

Though the majority of DreamWorks’ staff is expected to make the move to the new company with principals Stacey Snider and Spielberg, Par has offered DreamWorks president of production Adam Goodman an executive position whereby he would oversee the influx of DreamWorks-nurtured projects now in Par’s stable. Goodman would not be brought into Par as president of production, as that post will continue to be held solely by Brad Weston.

Many involved with the divorce expected negotiations to continue through the remainder of the year.

However, some type of co-financing arrangement had been expected ever since DreamWorks closed a deal last month with India-based Reliance to create a stand-alone production company and end its three-year union with the Melrose studio. Sunday’s deal does not affect DreamWorks’ need to strike a distribution-only pact, likely with Universal, to release the new company’s slate, minus the 15 projects now covered under the Par-DreamWorks settlement agreement.

“We have had a great run with the DreamWorks team both creatively and financially,” said Paramount chairman and CEO Brad Grey. “We look forward to building on our joint successes as Paramount plans for the future.”

Though Paramount had no contractual obligation to partner with the new DreamWorks on any of the 200 projects, Moore said the studio wanted to keep a good working relationship with Spielberg, who is involved as a producer on the “Transformers” franchise as well as three other Paramount films in development, including the sci-fi pic “When Worlds Collide.”

DreamWorks had more to lose had a settlement deal not been struck, as the new company would have been forced to start from scratch with an empty development slate.

Added Spielberg, “Brad (Grey) is a friend, and I am pleased to be able to continue to work with him and his team with whom we have shared many successes.”