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No teary send-off for DreamWorks

September 22, 2008|Claudia Eller | Times Staff Writer

Check out those parting words Paramount Pictures chose Friday when kissing DreamWorks goodbye. In its prepared statement, the studio brass told Steven Spielberg and his pals that not only could they leave and take everyone with them to their new production company (never mind those pesky employment contracts), but they could do it "without delay."

In other words: Good riddance.

But, hey, no hurt feelings. The DreamWorks folks -- especially David Geffen and Stacey Snider -- have exactly the same sentiments toward Paramount boss Brad Grey and his team.

So, as Geffen rides off into the sunset, and Spielberg and Snider decide who among their 150 employees will make the cut to their new venture backed by India's Reliance ADA Group (tough luck to those who helped build the old DreamWorks and will be stranded on the unemployment line), Grey & Co. will be able to celebrate the end to a tortuous three-year cohabitation with the dream team only for a brief time.

That's because Paramount's parent -- specifically its fiscally tough Viacom Inc. honchos Sumner Redstone and Phillipe Dauman, and their band of not-always-merry shareholders, will be watching closely to see how well Grey can perform without DreamWorks in the house.

Let's be honest. Not every DreamWorks film was a hit like "Transformers," "Blades of Glory" or "Norbit." (Think box-office duds such as "The Ruins," "Flags of Our Fathers" and "Things We Lost in the Fire" . . . and just this last weekend "Ghost Town" was DOA with about $5 million in U.S. ticket sales.)

But DreamWorks did come to Grey's rescue with hit films when the former talent manager arrived at Paramount in 2005, discovered the cupboards nearly bare and then misfired with box-office losers of his own, such as "Stardust" and "Hot Rod."

Grey, whose studio this summer raked in some handsome fees (though no profit) from distributing the blockbusters "Iron Man" and "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," now has to prove that Paramount can develop enough hits by itself.

And for the foreseeable future, the studio, at least on paper, looks to be in decent shape. It is betting on a trio of fat-budget hopeful hits: a "Transformers" sequel, J.J. Abrams' "Star Trek" and a "G.I. Joe" film. Then in fall 2009 comes another big-budget flick, Marty Scorsese's mystery thriller "Shutter Island," starring Leonardo DiCaprio, and DreamWorks' "The Lovely Bones," which Peter Jackson directed and is based on Alice Sebold's bestselling novel.

Paramount's 2010 release schedule will include an "Iron Man" sequel for early summer and an expensive live-action version of Nickelodeon's animated TV series "The Last Airbender," directed by M. Night Shyamalan.

Beyond that, the studio plans to relaunch its Jack Ryan franchise, based on the character in the spy thrillers by author Tom Clancy; produce a sequel to its 2003 comedy hit "School of Rock," and remake its 1984 musical "Footloose," to be directed by Kenny Ortega, who rumor has it will put his "High School Musical" star Zac Efron into the dancing shoes of the original film's lead played by Kevin Bacon.

Hopefully, for Brad Grey, good riddance won't turn out to be a wrong sentiment.

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