DreamWorks Animation Inks Distribution Deal with Fox

Dreamworks Animation Logo - H 2012
Dreamworks Animation

Dreamworks Animation Logo - H 2012

The pact will allow the Jeffrey Katzenberg-led studio to release its films via Fox from 2013 through 2017.

DreamWorks Animation has closed a five-year distribution deal with 20th Century Fox.

The pact will allow the Jeffrey Katzenberg-led studio to release its films via Fox from 2013 through 2017 and calls for Fox to market and distribute DreamWorks Animation's features domestically and internationally, in domestic and international markets.

DWA's deal with Paramount expires after this year.

“Fox has long been an industry leader in both theatrical and home video thanks in large part to its well-integrated approach to distribution across a wide range of platforms around the globe,” said Katzenberg. “Jim Gianopulos and Tom Rothman have built a world-class distribution team, and we are excited to apply their expertise, robust infrastructure and global resources so that DreamWorks Animation’s films can reach their fullest possible potential over the next five years.”

Today's news comes after weeks of fierce bidding between Fox and Sony, the other potential suitor for DreamWorks Animation. And it ends months of speculation about where the animation house, whose 13 films released under the Paramount deal since 2006 earned some $6.5 billion at the worldwide box office, would wind up.

In July, sources told The Hollywood Reporter that Katzenberg was searching for a suitor that could distribute his product on multiple platforms. The terms of Monday's deal provides for that; sources tell THR that Fox will take an 8 percent fee in traditional markets, including worldwide theatrical, home video and international television. That matches the deal DWA had with Paramount.

However, the Fox deal also allows DreamWorks Animation to distribute its product in domestic television windows without paying any fees to Fox.

Although DreamWorks ushered in a slew of mega-hits through its distribution deal with Paramount during the past seven years -- including Shrek Forever After, How to Train Your Dragon, the Kung Fu Panda franchise and the past two Madagascar films -- renewal talks between the two entities fizzled, leading DWA to begin looking for a new home. Paramount even launched its own animation division in 2011 to buffer against DWA's eventual defection.

Katzenberg acknowledged that DreamWorks Animation mulled other options, including self-distribution, but Fox's well-oiled worldwide distribution machine was "awfully compelling."

"Our new agreement with Fox presents more favorable economics overall for DreamWorks Animation because we are taking advantage of lower costs associated with the emerging digital-distribution landscape and managing domestic television distribution in-house," Katzenberg added.

Fox chiefs Gianopulos and Rothman were equally enthusiastic about the move.

“DreamWorks Animation is a great company that makes terrific films, and everyone here feels privileged and honored to have been chosen to distribute their marvelous work throughout the world,” they said. “We are particularly excited to add DreamWorks Animation’s films to the strong and growing slate of movies from our outstanding Blue Sky Studios division, which is coming off another global blockbuster with Ice Age: Continental Drift, and has EPIC and Rio 2 in advanced production. Together we will be a dominant force in animated entertainment for years to come.”

Here's a look at the some of the films in the pipeline for DreamWorks Animation under its new deal with Fox:

Turbo: An ensemble cast including Samuel L. Jackson, Michelle Rodriguez and Paul Giamatti voice this tale of a garden snail (Ryan Reynolds) with dreams of racing greatness. The film is set to open July 19.

Me & My Shadow: The Book of Mormon star Josh Gad, Kate Hudson and Saturday Night Live’s Bill Hader are among the voices set for the movie that looks at people and their shadows. Alessandro Carloni, who served as head of story on DWA’s Oscar-nominated How to Train Your Dragon, will make his directorial debut on the movie, produced by Melissa Cobb (Kung Fu Panda 2). The studio has set a March 14, 2014 release date.

Happy Smekday!: The Big Bang Theory star Jim Parsons and singer-actress Rihanna are the lead voices in the adaptation of the award-winning book The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex. Tim Johnson, who co-directed DWA’s Antz and Over the Hedge, is solo in the helmer’s chair for Smekday!, which the studio hopes to release during the fourth quarter of 2014.

Borys Kit contributed to this report.