D'Works stays the course

Studio confident it will shore up $325 mil bank syndication by April

The sky isn't falling on DreamWorks 2.0. Despite the credit crunch, Steven Spielberg and Stacey Snider remain committed to rebuilding the again-private studio into a sizable production machine capable of churning out four to six movies a year. DW brass declined comment, but well-placed sources suggested that media speculation regarding the studio's ability to tap production funding in current market conditions has been wildly overblown.

The studio — which has tapped Universal as its film distribution partner — plans on buttoning up a $325 million bank syndication by April at the latest, supplementing a firm $550 million commitment by Mumbai-based Reliance Big Entertainment. That's less than half of what DreamWorks was gunning for before the credit squeeze prompted its lenders to lengthen their timeline on the syndicated financing, originally set to close in January.

But studio execs and their bankers are focused on raising as much as $750 million in syndicated funding in what's being described as an "accordion" approach to the financing. So once the $325 million portion is finalized, a follow-up phase of the syndication would be pursued.

DreamWorks brass still aims to get multiple productions before cameras in 2009, with a flow of releases to multiplexes beginning in 2010.

"Everything's still on," an insider said.

The Jay Roach-helmed comedy "Dinner With Schmucks" represents DreamWorks' likeliest first release through Uni. "Motorcade," a thriller about a terrorist-besieged presidential motorcade in Los Angeles, and the fact-based "Trial of the Chicago 7" also are expected to figure among the earliest of DreamWorks' new productions.

The three projects also number among 17 titles DreamWorks had in development while the studio was owned by Paramount and for which DreamWorks has agreed to pay Par about $20 million. DreamWorks' financing, when completed, is still expected to fund a total of about 36 film productions.

"The game plan hasn't changed at all," said a source familiar with the DW plans.

Spielberg and Snider have ended their executive contracts with Paramount, which recently parted ways with about 100 of its workers on the DreamWorks staff. Most of those employees are expected eventually to be rehired by the newly independent DreamWorks, whose production offices never left a longtime roost on the Uni lot. DreamWorks was owned by Par for about two years.

Jay A. Fernandez contributed to this report.
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