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DreamWorks and Paramount headed for splitsville

By Robert Salladay

September 21, 2007 at 7:52am

Egos are colliding.

Two years after Paramount Pictures paid a reported $1.6 billion for DreamWorks studios, the ego-fueled relationship is headed toward a messy divorce.

Steven Spielberg and his DreamWorks partner David Geffen have felt slighted that they haven’t gotten more independence and credit within Viacom Inc., which owns Paramount Pictures, given the success of their movies this summer, according to the Los Angeles Times.

DreamWorks helped lift Paramount’s fortunes with recent hits such as “Transformers,” “Disturbia,” “Dreamgirls,” Norbit” and “Blades of Glory” - all projects that were not on the Paramount schedule when Brad Grey took over the studio in 2005.

In addition, the newspaper reported, Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone has butted heads with Geffen, and the relationship between the two mega-companies has been marred by “internal power struggles, backbiting, perceived snubs and accusations of credit grabbing. …. Smarting from sellers’ remorse, the DreamWorks principals are expected to bolt as soon as they are free to do so late next year. Already, Geffen has been telling people in Hollywood that he and Spielberg plan to look for a new financial backer and studio home.”

Grey credits the purchase of DreamWorks with helping Paramount’s bottom line - but he signalled the relationship may be over with Spielberg and company. “The deal for us has been highly profitable and is ahead of schedule,” said Grey told the Times on Thursday. “It would always be better to have Steven and DreamWorks with us, but of course we’ll be OK” if they leave.

DreamWorks founder Jeffrey Katzenberg, who runs DreamWorks Animation, defended his partners. In a conference call with investors in New York, he said: “To suggest that not having Steven Spielberg is completely immaterial just seems ill-advised. I think calmer heads need to prevail here.”

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