DreamWorks Pictures, also known as DreamWorks, LLC, DreamWorks SKG, DreamWorks Studios or DW Studios, LLC, is an American film studio which develops, produces, and distributes films, video games and television programming. It has produced or distributed more than ten films with box-office grosses totalling more than $100 million each.
DreamWorks began in 1994 as an ambitious attempt by media moguls Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen (forming the SKG present on the bottom of the DreamWorks logo) to create a new Hollywood studio of which they own 72%. In December 2005, the founders agreed to sell the studio to Viacom, parent of Paramount Pictures. The sale was completed in February 2006. In 2008, DreamWorks announced its intention to end its partnership with Paramount and signed a $1.5 billion deal to produce films with India's Reliance ADA Group. Reliance provided $325M of equity to fund recreating Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks studio as an independent entity. Clark Hallren, former Managing Director of the Entertainment Industries group of J.P. Morgan Securities and Alan J. Levine of J.P. Morgan Entertainment Advisors led the Reliance team in structuring the capital and business plan for the company. The movie studio's distribution is 50% owned by Reliance which is led by Anil Ambani.
The company was founded following Katzenberg's resignation from The Walt Disney Company in 1994. At the suggestion of a friend of Spielberg, the two made an agreement with long-time Katzenberg collaborator David Geffen to start their own studio. The studio was officially founded on October 12, 1994 with financial backing of $33 million from each of the three main partners and $500 million from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.
In 1998, The United States 9th Circuit of Appeals upheld a lawsuit against DreamWorks for violating the copyright of Dreamworks, a company specializing in Star Trek Conventions.
In 1998, DreamWorks released its first full-length animated feature, Antz.
In 1999, 2000 and 2001, DreamWorks won three consecutive Academy Awards for Best Picture for American Beauty, Gladiator and A Beautiful Mind (the later two with Universal).
DreamWorks Interactive is a computer and video game developer founded in 1995, as a subsidiary of DreamWorks SKG. On February 24, 2000, Electronic Arts announced the acquisition of DreamWorks Interactive from DreamWorks and merged it with EA Pacific and Westwood Studios. DreamWorks Interactive became EA Los Angeles (EALA).
DreamWorks Records is the company's record label, the first project of which was George Michael's Older album. The first band signed to this label was the "eels" who released their debut album "Beautiful Freak" in 1997. The record company never lived up to expectations, though, and was sold in October 2003 to Universal Music Group, which operated the label as DreamWorks Nashville. That label was shut down in 2005 when its flagship artist, Toby Keith, departed to form his own label.
The studio has had its greatest financial success with movies, specifically animated movies. DreamWorks Animation teamed up with Pacific Data Images (now known as PDI/DreamWorks) in 1996, emerging as the main competitor to Pixar in the age of computer-generated animation and one of the few competitors to Disney in creating traditionally animated feature films. DreamWorks Animation has produced some of the highest grossing animated hits of all time, such as Antz (1998), Shrek (2001), its sequels Shrek 2 (2004), Shrek the Third (2007) and Shrek Forever After (2010); Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002), Madagascar (2005), its sequel, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (2008), Over the Hedge (2006), Flushed Away (2006), Bee Movie (2007), Kung Fu Panda (2008), its sequel, Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011), Monsters Vs. Aliens (2009), How to Train Your Dragon (2010), and Megamind (2010). Based on the films' success, DreamWorks Animation has spun off as its own publicly traded company.
In recent years, DreamWorks has scaled back. It stopped plans to build a high-tech studio, sold its music division, and has only produced a few television series, Las Vegas, Carpoolers and On the Lot, for example.
David Geffen admitted that DreamWorks had come close to bankruptcy twice. Under Katzenberg's watch, the studio suffered a $125 million loss on Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas and also overestimated the DVD demand for Shrek 2. In 2005, out of their two large budget pictures, The Island bombed at the domestic box office, while War of the Worlds was produced as a joint effort with Paramount which was the first to reap the profits.
In December 2005, Viacom's Paramount Pictures agreed to purchase the live-action studio. The deal was valued at approximately $1.6 billion, an amount that included about $400 million in debt assumptions. The company completed its acquisition on February 1, 2006.
On March 17, 2006, Paramount agreed to sell a controlling interest in the DreamWorks live-action library (pre-09/16/2005; DW Funding, LLC) to Soros Strategic Partners and Dune Entertainment II. The film library is valued at $900 million. Paramount retained the worldwide distribution rights to these films, as well as various ancillary rights, including music publishing, sequels and merchandising. This includes films that had been made by Paramount and DreamWorks (the music publishing rights were later licensed to Sony-ATV Music Publishing when that company acquired Paramount's Famous Music subdivision). The sale was completed on May 8, 2006.
On March 12, 2007, DreamWorks Animation announced it would release all of its films, beginning with Monsters vs. Aliens (2009), in stereoscopic 3D.
In June 2008, Variety reported that DreamWorks was looking for financing that would allow it to continue operations as an independent production company once its deal with Paramount ended later in the year. Most of the backing would come from an Indian investment firm called Reliance ADA Group. The DreamWorks trademarks are owned by DreamWorks Animation and the new company would need their approval to use the trademarks. In September 2008, it was reported by Variety that Dreamworks closed a deal with Reliance to create a stand-alone production company and end its ties to Paramount.
On February 9, 2009, DreamWorks entered into a long-term, 30-picture distribution deal with the Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures by which the films will be released through the Touchstone Pictures banner over the next five years. The deal came after negotiations broke off with Universal Pictures just days earlier. However, this deal does not include Indian rights, which will be handled by Reliance, nor does it include DreamWorks Animation, whose films will still be distributed by Paramount through to late 2012. Also not included are sequels to live-action films released before the Paramount merger, or those released by Paramount themselves – Paramount retains the rights to these franchises, and one such sequel, Little Fockers, was released by Paramount internationally in December 2010 (Universal owns domestic rights).
The DreamWorks logo features a young boy sitting on a crescent moon while fishing. The general idea for the logo was the brainchild of company co-founder Steven Spielberg, who originally wanted a computer-generated image, whereas Visual Effects Supervisor Dennis Muren, of Industrial Light and Magic suggested a hand-painted one. Muren then contacted a friend and fellow artist, Robert Hunt, to paint it. Hunt worked on both versions, for each of which his son William was cast as the model for the boy, and Spielberg liked the CGI one better. The music accompanying the logo to start live-action DreamWorks movies was specially composed by John Williams (although a number of DreamWorks films, such as Galaxy Quest and Saving Private Ryan, omit the music); the DreamWorks Animation logo has music from the Harry Gregson-Williams/John Powell score for Shrek. The main logo shows the scene at night, while the DreamWorks Animation logo shows it during the day.