Bank shots click for DreamWorks

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DreamWorks is about halfway there. The newly independent studio has won firm lender commitments for at least $150 million during the first phase of a $325 million bank syndication needed to secure a matching contribution by partner Reliance Big Entertainment.

Executives would not comment, but it is believed that DreamWorks' long-standing bankers at Citi National and Comerica will provide a combined $75 million or more. RBE's relationships in India with Bank of Scotland and BNP also are being mined.

Others studying terms sheets include Wachovia, Citibank, CIT Bank and US Bank. JPMorgan leads the syndication and is expected to be on board for at least $75 million.

DreamWorks and its lenders hope to button up the syndication's first phase by March 31, despite tough market conditions that prompted executives last month to rein in the amount sought. Including RBE's matching funds, the latest plan will provide $650 million for operations and production as Steven Spielberg, Stacey Snider and other DreamWorks executives continue development on a host of film properties.

Plans call for getting one or more projects into production by year's end and a flow of releases into multiplexes next year. DreamWorks has tapped Universal as its new theatrical distribution partner.

Film projects with the most momentum at the studio include the political thriller "Motorcade," literary adaptation "The 39 Clues" and fact-based drama "The Trial of the Chicago Seven."

DreamWorks has used contributions by RBE and Spielberg to cover costs since the fall departure of DreamWorks brass from their roost at Paramount.

On Jan. 15, DreamWorks paid $26.5 million to Paramount for rights to 17 projects developed by DreamWorks executives while the studio was owned by Par. RBE and Spielberg agreed to divide those costs evenly, and the DreamWorks co-founder previously paid $10 million to launch operations at the new company. (partialdiff)
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