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

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.

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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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