DreamWorks confirms $825 mil

New studio no longer a dream as partners finalize terms

Q&A: RBE's Amit Khanna

DreamWorks Studios expects to soon finalize the financing it needs to fuel development and production of a full film slate.

DreamWorks toppers Steven Spielberg and Stacey Snider were joined by Reliance Big Entertainment topper Anil Ambani, their equity partner in taking the studio private after a couple of years of ownership by Paramount, in officially announcing Wednesday that the studio is buttoning up $825 million in initial funding.

The Hollywood Reporter reported last month that JPMorgan Securities had won firm pledges for a $325 million loan syndication, with the balance of funding coming from Mumbai-based RBE and DreamWorks distribution partner Disney. But the formal acknowledgment of that good news turned out to be surprisingly low-key, with the partners putting out a statement from New York, where they had gathered for a business meeting.

The announcement largely was intended for India-based journalists, who were briefed in a conference call on various corporate developments, but word spread among stateside media Thursday.

DreamWorks will have a four-person board consisting of Spielberg, Snider, RBE's Amitabh Jhunjhunwala and JPMorgan's Alan Levine. The new company has been developing film projects since November, operating on start-up capital supplied by Spielberg and others.

"This venture with Reliance opens a new door to our future," Spielberg said.

Said the partners in the joint statement: "With this financing, DreamWorks will eventually make five to six films per year. DreamWorks anticipates starting its first film for the new studio later this year. They have been actively acquiring properties and developing projects for release in 2010."

RBE is contributing $325 million in financing and Disney up to $175 million. JPMorgan hopes soon to close on the other $325 million portion.

Disney will handle marketing and distribution of the studio's films worldwide except for in India, where RBE will hold distribution rights.

"We are delighted to partner with such uniquely talented individuals as Steven Spielberg and Stacey Snider," Ambani said. "Ever since we looked at their business plan, I have never doubted that we would succeed in providing them with the financial muscle required to realize their dreams."

The DreamWorks partners also met informally with New York-based media Wednesday for a background discussion of the studio's plans. Spielberg confirmed he would direct a Martin Luther King biopic, and Snider stressed that the studio has had a flood of interest from top producers and writers despite its protracted financing process.

DreamWorks has developed some properties on its own and acquired others from Paramount. Projects include the sci-fi comic book adaptation "Cowboys & Aliens," co-financed by Universal; "Dinner for Schmucks," director Jay Roach's remake of French film "The Dinner Game"; the action caper "Motorcade," from director Len Wiseman; and the supernatural drama "Hereafter," from screenwriter Peter Morgan.

RBE last year announced a string of "development silos" with A-list Hollywood talent. Nonexclusive co-production pacts were struck with Nicolas Cage's Saturn Prods., Jim Carrey's JC 23 Entertainment, George Clooney's Smoke House Prods., Chris Columbus' 1492 Pictures, Tom Hanks' Playtone Prods., Brad Pitt's Plan B Entertainment, Roach's Everyman Pictures, Brett Ratner's Rat Entertainment and Julia Roberts' Red Om Films.

Spielberg's Indian connections began in 1977, when he shot some scenes for "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" near Mumbai. He returned for a personal visit in 1978 and plans to come back this year to visit with local film industry insiders and review possible movie material.

Nyay Bhushan reported from Mumbai; Carl DiOrio reported from Los Angeles. Patrick Frater in Hong Kong contributed to this report.
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