The New York Times reports that after a long negotiation, DreamWorks is re-upping its deal with India-based Reliance. But with a plan to streamline its production pace down to 3-to-5 movies per year. Neither the renewal nor the tightening of purse strings are a surprise as it was widely expected since before the Oscars that both would happen. The second phase of Reliance’s investment was originally supposed to be less than the original $325 million, and the new money is upwards of $200 million. But the fact that it’s now about to happen means a lot: it’s another buyer back in the game at a time of contraction with Lionsgate and Summit merging.
DreamWorks partners Steven Spielberg and Stacey Snider had been unable to move forward with production starts while awaiting word from their India-based partners, or even buy much new material as they awaited the decision from Reliance. The staff has continued to develop properties they had already acquired, and Spielberg has been plenty busy anyway, directing the biopic Lincoln with Daniel Day-Lewis. That film had financing partners beyond Reliance, as Fox and Participant Media are also in the mix. Fox is already in the mix on Spielberg’s next pic, Robopocalypse, and he might certainly help his cause by making a big scifi popcorn film that can succeed on a global level. That DreamWorks twisted in the wind this long is shocking, and some might think they should have stuck with a studio like Paramount or Universal. But this is how Spielberg wanted it and as money gets tighter all over Hollywood, the misses take a big toll and the hits are more desirable than ever. GK Films has discovered that after the pricey Johnny Depp pic The Rum Diary lost a fortune, as did Hugo, the Martin Scorsese directed film. Like that pic, DreamWorks and Spielberg got a Best Picture nom for War Horse, but audiences just didn’t respond – and it didn’t help the studio’s cause.
Reliance came to Hollywood like gangbusters several years ago, not only becoming financing partner for DreamWorks when that company left Paramount, but also making first look deals with star-driven companies headed by the likes of Brett Ratner, Jay Roach, Jim Carrey, Brad Pitt and Nicolas Cage. So far, they’ve little to show for the production deal investments and many wondered if Reliance would want to continue with DreamWorks, particularly after last summer’s flop Cowboys & Aliens overshadowed modest successes like The Help.