D'Works exit would pinch Par pipeline

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Adventures in the wake of "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" could prove more perilous for Paramount than anything the film's treasure hunters braved.

Once considered a lock for $300 million-plus in domestic boxoffice, the latest installment in the Steven Spielberg franchise might have to claw its way to that benchmark. But with the first Indy sequel in 19 years now well into its global theatrical rollout and Spielberg and company now mulling their possible exit from Paramount, there's this more important question: What will Par do for film production if DreamWorks brass bolt the studio?

DreamWorks-produced movies have helped fill distribution pipelines since Par acquired DW in December 2005. The loss of such content would put severe demands on remaining production execs.

The recent diversion of Paramount Vantage films to the parent's distribution channels would seem to offer only modest help in bolstering output numbers. And even this summer, Paramount has been consigned to a distributor-only role in its highest-profile releases, such as the Lucasfilm-produced "Crystal Skull," the Marvel-produced "Iron Man" and the DreamWorks Animation-produced "Kung Fu Panda."

"Crystal Skull" has forged a worldwide cume of $579 million through its first three weekends, including $326 million in foreign coin. Yet industryites will be watching for whether the film manages to get to the magical $300 million domestic threshold.

A failure to reach that benchmark would be construed by many — fairly or not — as a significant disappointment and could further undermine the tenuous relationship between Spielberg and company and their current corporate bosses at Paramount. (partialdiff)
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