Spielberg and DreamWorks energize the magic machine

Spielberg and DreamWorks energize the magic machine

Universal City, California: In the perfect little town of Paradise, Ohio, a pretty-faced new kid has a crush on the sweet blonde who is showing him around. By the way, the kid is also a space alien, on the run from some other aliens who are anything but pretty.

After two years in the throes of a financial restructuring, Steven Spielberg and his DreamWorks Studios Llc are back with some typically Spielbergian stuff. And they are starting the next round with the sort of fanciful, scary, sometimes heartwarming movies they know best—and their new distribution ally, Walt Disney Studios, needs most.

Success for DreamWorks might quickly return Disney to its former status as a “full service" studio offering a wide range of action movies and dramas, after it had focused for years on animation and family fare that paid the bills, but kept the company out of the Hollywood mainstream.

It would also vindicate both a new film management team, and the decision by the Disney chief executive, Robert A. Iger, to dismantle the company’s Miramax art film unit.

DreamWorks Studios is completely separate from DreamWorks Animation Llc, a publicly traded animation firm whose films are still distributed by Paramount Pictures Corp.

The inaugural film from the revamped DreamWorks, I Am Number Four, with those hormonal teenagers and nasty aliens—and a heavy Twilight element—is set for release on Disney’s Touchstone banner on 18 February. Spielberg is not expected to take a credit on the film, remaining in his executive role.

But neither is he taking chances with the first in a string of movies that will inevitably have investors, business allies and the audience watching for his trademark screen magic.

DreamWorks—now owned by Spielberg and Stacey Snider, with financial backing from Reliance Big Entertainment Pvt. Ltd of India and distribution via Disney—carefully picked the release date.

The director of I Am Number Four, D.J. Caruso, gave DreamWorks a pair of PG-13 hits, Disturbia and Eagle Eye, during its unhappy tenure as a partner of Paramount Pictures. The producer is Michael Bay, who mixed teenagers and space creatures for DreamWorks and Paramount in the blockbuster Transformers series. In an email, Bay said he brought the project to Spielberg, whom he described as a “mentor and friend".

That I Am Number Four should be first up from the new DreamWorks in many ways owes more to the accidents of moviemaking than any grand design.

After finally securing around $850 million (Rs 3,775 crore today) in financing from various sources about 14 months ago, company executives approved half a dozen films, all of which were in production this year, according to Snider, who plays down the drama in starting anew.

“DreamWorks has been doing this for 16 years, and I’ve been with Steven for four-and-a-half years," she said.

“He’s made movies for every studio in town," Snider added. “But if it feels like a debut, I guess that’s good."