DreamWorks Pictures is an American film production company, and a label of Amblin Partners. It was founded in 1994 as a film studio by Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen, of which they owned 72%. The studio formerly distributed its own and third-party films. It has produced or distributed more than ten films with box-office grosses of more than $100 million each.
In December 2005, the founders agreed to sell the studio to Viacom, parent of Paramount Pictures. The sale was completed in February 2006. In 2008, DreamWorks announced its intention to end its partnership with Paramount and signed a $1.5 billion deal to produce films with India's Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, re-creating DreamWorks Pictures as an independent entity. The following year, DreamWorks entered into a distribution agreement with Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, wherein Disney would distribute DreamWorks films through Touchstone Pictures; the deal continued until 2016. As of October 2016, DreamWorks' films are marketed and distributed by Universal Pictures. Currently, DreamWorks operates out of offices at Universal Studios Hollywood.
DreamWorks' former animation division, now known as DreamWorks Animation, was spun off in 2004 through 2006, and as of August 2016 is a subsidiary of NBCUniversal. Spielberg's company continues to use the DreamWorks trademarks under license from DreamWorks Animation.
DreamWorks SKG: original foundingThe original company was founded following Jeffrey Katzenberg's resignation from the Walt Disney Company in 1994. Katzenberg approached Steven Spielberg and David Geffen about forming a live-action and animation film studio, which had not been done in decades due to the risk and expense. They agreed on three conditions: They would make fewer than nine movies a year, they would be free to work for other studios if they chose, and they would go home in time for dinner. They officially founded DreamWorks SKG in October 1994, with financial backing of $33 million from each of the three partners plus $500 million from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, and $300 million from Cheil Jedang Group heiress. Lee got CJ Group distribution rights to DreamWorks films in Asia except Japan. Their new studio was based at offices on the Universal Studios lot, in the same bungalow as Amblin Entertainment. Despite access to sound stages and sets, DreamWorks preferred to film motion pictures on location. Usually, the company would film in a soundstage or set in a major studio. DreamWorks, now a label under Amblin Partners, is still based on the Universal lot.
In December 1994, DreamWorks Television was formed after DreamWorks agreed to a $200 million seven-year TV production joint venture with the Capital Cities/ABC. The company was set up to produce series for broadcast network, cable channels and first run syndication with no first look for ABC, but financial incentives favored ABC. The first show, Champs, was scheduled as a mid-season replacement for ABC. Dan McDermott was named division chief executive in June 1995. DWTV's first success was Spin City on ABC. The Walt Disney Company bought Capital Cities/ABC in February 1996. In 2002, the DreamWorks joint venture agreement with ABC ended. That agreement was replaced by a development agreement with NBC with a first look clause. In 2013, DreamWorks Television merged with Amblin Television.
In 1995, traditional animation artists from Amblimation joined the new studio, which led to DreamWorks buying part of Pacific Data Images, a company specializing in visual effects, and renaming PDI/DreamWorks. Both were software divisions and would merge later on. For then, DreamWorks had the traditional animators working for their animation department, and the computer animators worked on CG films. Amblimation would be shut down in 1997, leading the staff to join DreamWorks Animation. The same year, DreamWorks Interactive, a computer and video game developer and joint venture between DreamWorks and Microsoft, was founded. On February 24, 2000, Electronic Arts announced the acquisition of DreamWorks Interactive and merged it with EA Pacific and Westwood Studios to form EA Los Angeles, later Danger Close Games.
In June 1995, DreamWorks announced that it had signed a $1 billion deal with MCA Inc. to distribute its theatrical releases in other countries and its home video releases worldwide over 10 years. MCA also bought a 2% stake in the company for $54 million.
In 1996, the company's record label, DreamWorks Records, was founded, the first project of which was George Michael's album Older. The first band signed to the label was eels, who released their debut album Beautiful Freak. The record company never lived up to expectations, though, and was sold in October 2003 to Universal Music Group, which operated the label as DreamWorks Nashville. That label was shut down in 2005 when its flagship artist, Toby Keith, departed to form his own label.
In 1997, DreamWorks Pictures released its first three feature films, The Peacemaker, a film about terrorism; Amistad, Spielberg's first film for the studio about an African slave rebellion and the aftermath of the massacre; and Mouse Hunt, the studio's first family film about two brothers trying to fight a mischievous mouse.
In 1998, the United States 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lawsuit against DreamWorks for trademark infringement by Dreamwerks Production Group, Inc., a company mostly specializing in Star Trek conventions. The same year, PDI/DreamWorks produced its first full-length animated features, Antz and The Prince of Egypt, which were distributed by DreamWorks Pictures. DreamWorks Pictures continued to distribute PDI/DreamWorks productions through their distribution name until 2004.
In 2000, DreamWorks was planning in building a studio backlot after buying 1,087 acres of land in the Playa Vista area in Los Angeles. It was to be complete with 18 sound stages, with many office buildings and a lake. There would also be new homes, schools, churches, and museums. The project was to be completed in 2001, but was cancelled for financial reasons. Starting in 1999, DreamWorks won three consecutive Academy Awards for Best Picture for American Beauty, Gladiator and A Beautiful Mind. The same year, Go Fish Pictures, a division of DreamWorks with the objective to distribute art-house, independent and foreign films, was founded. The division experienced success with the anime films Millennium Actress and ', respectively, which led them to venture into releasing live-action films, with the release of The Chumscrubber. However, The Chumscrubber was a commercial and critical failure, which led DreamWorks to shut down the division in 2007 shortly after the release of the Japanese film Casshern.
For the period beginning October 1, 2004 to January 31, 2006, DreamWorks films were distributed in the domestic theatrical and worldwide television market by DreamWorks Pictures and in international theatrical and worldwide home entertainment markets by Universal Pictures. In 2004, DreamWorks Animation was spun off into a separate public company.
David Geffen admitted that DreamWorks came close to bankruptcy twice. Under Katzenberg's watch, the studio suffered a $125 million loss on ', and also overestimated the DVD demand for Shrek 2. In 2005, out of their two large budget pictures, War of the Worlds was produced as a joint effort with Paramount Pictures which was the first to reap a significant amount of profits, while The Island bombed at the domestic box office but turned a profit internationally through Warner Bros..
Paramount ownershipIn December 2005, the original Viacom, the then-parent of Paramount Pictures, agreed to purchase the live-action studio, still keeping the original name and producing/distribution name. The deal was valued at approximately $1.6 billion, an amount that included about $400 million in debt assumptions. The acquisition of the live-action DreamWorks studio was completed by the second iteration of Viacom, which had recently split from the original at the end of 2005, on February 1, 2006.
On March 17, 2006, Viacom agreed to sell a controlling interest in the DreamWorks Pictures live-action library to Soros Strategic Partners and Dune Entertainment II. The film library was valued at $900 million. Paramount Pictures retained the worldwide distribution rights to those films, as well as various ancillary rights, including music publishing, sequels and merchandising. The sale was completed on May 8, 2006. On February 8, 2010, Viacom repurchased Soros' controlling stake in the DreamWorks Pictures library for around $400 million.
Reliance-Spielberg joint ventureIn June 2008, Variety reported that DreamWorks was looking for financing that would allow it to continue operations, but as an independent production company, once its deal with Paramount ended later that year. Several public equity funds were approached for financing, including Blackstone Group, Fuse Global, TPG Capital and several others, but all passed on the deal given their understanding of the Hollywood markets. In September 2008, Variety reported that DreamWorks closed a deal with Indian investment firm Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group to create a stand-alone production company and end its ties with Paramount. In January 2009, Spielberg entered a licensing agreement with DreamWorks Animation to use the DreamWorks trademarks, logo, and name for film productions and releases. The Viacom-owned DreamWorks was then renamed DW Studios.
On February 9, 2009, DreamWorks Pictures entered into a long-term, 30-picture distribution deal with Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, by which DreamWorks' films would be released through the Touchstone Pictures banner. The deal also included co-funding via a $175 million loan by Walt Disney Studios to DreamWorks for production and access to slots in Disney's pay television agreement, then with Starz. The agreement was reported to have come after negotiations broke off with Universal Pictures just days earlier. DreamWorks raised $325 million from Reliance Entertainment and an additional $325 million in debt in 2009.
DreamWorks' slate of films in 2011, I Am Number Four, Cowboys & Aliens, and Fright Night failed, while The Help, Real Steel and Spielberg's War Horse had success at the box office. This left DreamWorks so financially drained that by 2011, the company was seeking additional funding from Reliance. Reliance gave a $200 million investment in April 2012. Under the deal, DreamWorks Pictures scaled back production to three films per year and sought co-financiers on big budget films, such as 20th Century Fox, who co-financed Lincoln and Bridge of Spies. The company continued to utilize Disney's marketing unit. In August that year, after renegotiating their agreement with Disney, DreamWorks formed a deal with Mister Smith Entertainment to distribute its films in EMEA, while Disney would continue to distribute in North America, Latin America, Australia, Russia, and some territories in Asia.
Amblin Partners ventureIn September 2015, it was reported that DreamWorks and Disney would not renew their distribution deal, which was set to expire in August 2016, with The Light Between Oceans being released in September as the final DreamWorks film distributed by Disney under their original distribution agreement. During that time, DreamWorks was in early negotiations with Universal Pictures to distribute its upcoming films. The contract allowing Spielberg to license the DreamWorks name and logo from Jeffrey Katzenberg's DreamWorks Animation was set to expire on January 1, 2016, leading to media speculation that Spielberg would not renew the pact. Disney retained the film rights to the fourteen DreamWorks films,' as well as acquiring the "DreamWorks II Distribution Co. LLC" copyright from DreamWorks and Reliance in December 2015.'
On December 16, 2015, Spielberg, Reliance, Entertainment One, and Participant Media partnered to launch the content production company Amblin Partners, relegating DreamWorks to a brand for adult-themed films produced under the new company. In addition to DreamWorks, the new company also would produce films under the Amblin Entertainment and Participant banners.
On the same day, Amblin Partners announced a five-year distribution deal with Universal, under which the company's films would be distributed and marketed by either the main Universal label or its specialty label, Focus Features. The Girl on the Train was the first film released under the new agreement.
On February 15, 2017, Universal acquired a minority stake in Amblin Partners, strengthening the relationship between Universal and Amblin and reuniting a minority percentage of the DreamWorks Pictures label with DreamWorks Animation.