LOS ANGELES ~ Legendary Hollywood director Steven Spielberg and his longtime partner Paramount Pictures formalized their divorce this week, but intend to stay good friends.
As part of a Hollywood trend to reach out to the booming “Bollywood” movie industry, Spielberg is to form a new Hollywood-based film venture worth US$1.5 billion with India’s Reliance ADA Group.
Spielberg, director of such legendary works as Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, ET and the Indiana Jones franchise, will hold a CEO position in the new venture alongside current Dreamworks’ CEO and co-chairman Stacey Snider.
The deal was finalized by David Geffen, co-founder with Spielberg of the Dreamworks film studio, and Reliance CEO Anil Ambani, ranked the world’s sixth-richest man in 2008 by Forbes Magazine.
The venture will produce up to 35 movies in the next five years, a source close to Reliance said.
Geffen will not be joining the new company, but “a majority of existing Dreamworks staff is expected to be offered positions at the new company,” said Paramount in a statement.
The bank JPMorgan Chase will provide up to $700 million to finance the deal, with Reliance providing an additional $550 million. The money will be used to compensate Viacom, Paramount’s owner, which bought Spielberg’s studios for $1.6 billion in 2006.
Paramount will have the option to co-finance and co-distribute feature films made by the new venture, said Paramount.
Also, three-time Oscar winner Spielberg will continue to produce the Transformers franchise for Paramount, and will collaborate on three other Paramount movies, including the science-fiction remake When Worlds Collide.
Both parties said the multibillion-dollar split was amicable.
“We have had a great run with the DreamWorks team, both creatively and financially,” said Paramount Pictures CEO Brad Grey.
“In particular, it has been a true honor working closely with a storyteller of Steven’s talent and stature,” he said.
Spielberg, whose work at DreamWorks oversaw three consecutive Best Picture Oscars for American Beauty, Gladiator and A Beautiful Mind, seconded Grey’s farewells.
Spielberg said he had “enjoyed a productive creative and business collaboration” with Paramount and spoke of “extending the relationship for many years to come.”
The Spielberg transfer from Paramount comes a day after another multibillion-dollar deal was announced between a Hollywood giant and a Bollywood studio.
Last weekend, Twentieth Century Fox said it had struck a multiple movie agreement with top Indian producer Vipul Amrutlal Shah, one of the most successful producers in Hindi-language cinema.
The deals are seen as a growing trend for corporatisation of the Indian film industry, and reflect Bollywood’s increasing appeal outside its traditional market to a wider audience.