DreamWorks wraps financing

Stacey Snider promises 'commercial, quality entertainment'

DreamWorks confirms $825 mil

Resurrected almost a year ago as a private production company, DreamWorks finally has its filmmaking financing fully in place.

DreamWorks on Monday announced that it has concluded the arduous process of rounding up a total $825 million in corporate financing for the reborn film company. That sum includes a $325 million JP Morgan-led bank syndication, a matching amount from DreamWorks principal Reliance Big Entertainment and a $175 million commitment from distribution partner Disney.

"This will allow us to move ahead quickly into production with our first group of films," DreamWorks co-toppers Steven Spielberg and Stacey Snider said in a joint statement.

"Our partnership with Stacey and Steven is the cornerstone of our Hollywood strategy as we grow our film interests across the globe," RBE topper Anil Ambani said. "Given our faith in the business plan that they presented to us -- and despite the current economic climate -- we were always confident that this day would come. Now Stacey and Steven can focus on producing more of the great films for which they are renowned."

In a recent interview, Snider succinctly summed up the business and creative aims of the reincarnated studio.

"Commercial, quality entertainment is the mantra," she said.

In other words, don't expect any art films or limited releases, as DreamWorks begins to pump movies through Disney's distribution pipeline. Its agreement with the Burbank studio also provides for TV and home entertainment distribution of its film titles.

At least for now, DreamWorks is staying put in its offices on the backlot of Universal, which once distributed its films before Paramount bought the indie and operated it as an off-site production division for two years.

By the summer of 2008, it was clear DreamWorks brass would use exit clauses in their professional studios to bolt their arrangement with Paramount. DreamWorks chairman David Geffen orchestrated the trio's departure but retired rather than following Spielberg and Snider to DreamWorks 2.0.

Official word of the DreamWorks financing caps a more than yearlong rebirthing of the studio, originally created in 1994 with onetime Disney president Jeffrey Katzenberg filling out an exec troika with Spielberg and Geffen. Katzenberg today is CEO of DreamWorks Animation, created in 2004 when DreamWorks SKG's animation operations were split off into a publicly floated entity.

News that Team Spielberg first intended to depart Par first circulated when The Hollywood Reporter reported in June 2008 that the iconic filmmaker was on the hunt for up to $1 billion in financing to re-establish DreamWorks as a company that controlled its own production. Later that month, the Wall Street Journal reported RBE was considering a 50% stake in Spielberg's intended new venture.

By the fall, Spielberg and Snider were thick into negotiations over their Par exits, and various studios were wooing the execs over prospective distribution arrangements with a reincarnated DreamWorks, a process that culminated in the deal with Disney in February.

The bank syndication -- a linchpin in DreamWorks' corporate financing -- was essentially completed by late July. But the syndication wasn't formally closed until Monday, after final paperwork was assembled by DreamWorks COO Jeff Small and JPMorgan entertainment consultant Alan Levine.

DreamWorks is likely to get three pictures into production next year and at least one into theaters, with the intent of distributing five or six pics per year eventually.

Spielberg's recently announced remake of the family fantasy "Harvey" will be the first film release under the deal with Disney, which will split global rights with pic co-producer Fox. DreamWorks' first new shoot will be a three-way co-production with Paramount and Spyglass, the comedy "Dinner For Schmucks," which Par will distribute.

DreamWorks also has a full roster of development projects.

Using money from Spielberg and other sources, DreamWorks in January acquired 17 film projects launched by its execs while at Par. Among those furthest in development are a political thriller "Motorcade," sci-fi actioner "Cowboys and Aliens" and literary adaptation "The 39 Clues."
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