Amblin Partners Signs New Distribution Deal With Universal, Participant Leaving as Stakeholder

George MacKay in 1917
Universal Pictures/Photofest

Universal's '1917.'

As a part of the new pact, NBCUniversal will reinvest in Amblin, while 'Green Book' banner Participant exits as an equity holder.

Amblin Partners has signed a new distribution deal with Universal that will see, each year, multiple Amblin films marketed and distributed theatrically, with the pact also encompassing streaming.

At the same time, Participant, which has been an equity holder in the company since 2015 and helped co-finance hits such as best picture Oscar winner Green Book, is leaving its position as an equity holder as it seeks “flexibility."

Amblin and Universal signed a distribution pact in 2015 and, in 2017, Universal Filmed Entertainment took a minority stake in Amblin Partners. As a part of the new pact, NBCUniversal will reinvest in Amblin, providing fresh capital to fund new production and development efforts across both film and television businesses.

Steven Spielberg, Amblin’s founder and chairman remarked: “My decades-long relationship with Universal truly transcends any single business deal, and to once again renew our corporate vows reaffirms that Universal is Amblin’s home.”

Donna Langley, chairman at Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, said: “Steven Spielberg and Amblin Partners have delivered award-winning critical and commercial hits that stand the test of time amongst films in the Universal canon. We’re proud to continue our partnership and reinvest in the future of Amblin Partners.”

It is unclear how many films the Uni deal will encompass each year, with theatrical distribution being handled via Uni and Focus Features, but Monday's announcement notes that the pact provides "Amblin with new opportunities in the streaming film marketplace." A source familiar with the deal adds that this could allow for Amblin films to be released onto the studio's sister streaming service, Peacock, or other streamers going forward.

For his part, Participant CEO David Linde noted, "Exiting our formal position will allow us the flexibility to evolve our business as our strategic goals and the marketplace dictates. Both Universal and Focus have been great distribution partners; and we have been incredibly fortunate to work closely with Steven, well pre-dating the formation of Amblin Partners, and look forward to finding new projects with him, Jeff Small and the entire Amblin team."

"I would also like to extend my deepest gratitude to my dear friends Jeff Skoll and David Linde for an incredible run as formal partners; and my congratulations on what I know will be a successful next chapter in Participant’s journey," continued Spielberg. "While in a different form, we look forward to continuing our collaborations to create the type of culturally impactful content that only Participant can deliver.”

Alibaba Pictures, eOne and Reliance Entertainment will continue as equity holders, with each holding distribution rights to Amblin films in respective territories.