Spielberg goes to Bollywood

Dreamworks has completed its divorce from Paramount - and it's another feather in the cap for Bollywood...

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Dreamworks, the studio owned by legendary director Steven Spielberg, has announced a new $1.5bn tie-up with Reliance ADA, the Indian entertainment conglomerate run by zillionaire Anil Ambani. The deal makes Reliance – already one of the biggest studios in the thriving Bollywood film industry – a major player in Hollywood too. And it shows that in these credit-crunched times, the titans of the US film industry are increasingly looking east for their funding…

Dreamworks’ alliance with Paramount hasn’t exactly been the happiest of marriages. Paramount parent Viacom bought Spielberg’s studio for $1.6bn in 2006, and although the tie-up has brought plenty of commercial success – notably last year’s hits Transformers and Blades of Glory – the two sides never really seem to have got on, leading to constant speculation about their future. According to reports, Spielberg and co wanted to regain control of their creative destiny, rather than having Paramount take all the credit for their successes.

So in the circumstances, the agreement they’ve announced this weekend counts as a pretty amicable separation: Spielberg will apparently take with him about 15-20 of their joint projects, along with the Dreamworks name and most of its staff – which means he won’t have to start over from scratch. And he’ll continue to work with Paramount, both on co-financing other projects and even producing some of them (including the lucrative Transformers franchise). All he needs to do now is find a new distributor (probably rival Universal Pictures).

But more than anything, this deal shows the new financial muscle of Bollywood, at a time when the US film industry is increasingly strapped for cash. The new independent Dreamworks studio will be one of the most influential in Hollywood – and it will be backed by Indian money. It’s a major profile-booster for Reliance and Ambani, who’s spent the last year signing deals with the production companies of several big Hollywood stars to make new films – with this Spielberg deal, he’s propelled himself into the big league of global entertainment.

And at a time when even the best-known filmmakers are struggling to raise funds for their new films – Oliver Stone recently financed his President Bush biopic with Chinese money, while Spielberg himself was recently turned down by Universal for funds to make his latest pet project (a big screen adaptation of Herge’s Adventures of Tintin – blistering barnacles!) – this shows that Bollywood has the deepest pockets in the business at the moment...

For more on the growing might of Bollywood, check out our exclusive interview with Kishore Lulla, the Indian movie mogul with Hollywood in his sights, from this month’s issue of MT.

In today's bulletin:

Markets tank amid European dis-Union
Spielberg goes to Bollywood
Energy companies ripping people off
10 Reasons to be cheerful
Rowling riches tell a false story

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