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Universal Studios retains Spielberg

Helmer to stay on as creative consultant thru 2017

Steven Spielberg will continue to serve as a creative consultant for Universal Studios’ theme parks through 2017, as part of an exclusive agreement that keeps him from developing new attractions for Disney, where DreamWorks is now based.

An initial put deal, inked in 1987, was set to end next June, which would have forced Universal to pay out hundreds of millions of dollars to Spielberg in exchange for helping design elements of the company’s parks, as well as rides.

Spielberg receives 5% of all gross revenue generated by U’s two parks in Orlando, Fla., and one in Japan, valued at up to $50 million a year. Universal Studios Hollywood is not included because it predates the initial agreement.

Termination of the deal would have ended the annual payments and instead paid out one lump sum to Spielberg covering the value of his stake in the Orlando parks and others open for at least a year.

The stake in the Orlando park alone is said to be worth more than $250 million.

The one-time payment will now be delayed until June 2017, details of which were disclosed Tuesday in financial filings.

Earlier this year, it was unclear whether Spielberg would extend the consulting pact, given that DreamWorks ended its relationship with Universal and inked a distribution deal with Disney, which operates its own parks.

But to sweeten the deal, Spielberg will now receive 5.25% of all gross revenue generated each year.

The already lucrative deal should make Spielberg even richer now considering that the U’s Islands of Adventure resort in Orlando is expected to see a significant boost in attendance next year with the opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

The company is also building parks in Dubai, Singapore and South Korea, which should generate considerable coin, as well.

Delaying the payout also helps U, which is looking to refinance $1 billion in debt due in April. U would have been forced to pay Spielberg his money before being able to broker a new arrangement with banks.

In addition to helping create the concept for Islands of Adventure, Spielberg also consulted on the creation of a dozen attractions, including the E.T. Adventure, Jurassic Park River Adventure and Men in Black Alien Attack attractions.

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