Prediction: Spielberg/Geffen to ... Time Warner?

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We all know the DreamWorks-Paramount marriage isn't working out. The question is, whose warm embrace will Steven Spielberg and David Geffen accept when Spielberg's contract with Paramount expires in October?

Conventional wisdom says Universal. There have been informal meetings between DreamWorks and NBC Uni brass, DreamWorks CEO Stacey Snider is a Uni vet and Spielberg's offices remain on the lot.

But GE already passed on the pricey $1.6 billion deal the first time around. And with the megaconglomerate possibly looking to shop NBC Uni after the Olympics, it's not going to want to make a major acquisition -- especially with the absence of the DreamWorks library making the deal harder to finance this time.

So if not Uni, where else? After the so-so performance of recent New Line releases like "Golden Compass," new Time Warner topper Jeff Bewkes might want to trade in Michael Lynne and Bob Shaye (whose contracts expire in '08) and bring aboard the Spielberg/Geffen combo to make movies for Warner Bros. at similar budgets.

Private-equity money is another option. Geffen's recent comments in Vanity Fair suggest that he's tired of dealing with conglomerates and their micromanaging moguls. A group of private investors could provide DreamWorks with the best of both worlds: financing that allows Spielbergian tentpoles and the freedom enjoyed by the pre-Viacom DreamWorks. Maybe they'll do a co-production with Tom Cruise's United Artists, just to tick off Sumner.






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