DreamWorks Is Still Buying — Picks Up Roald Dahl's ‘BFG’ (Exclusive)

Studio is shifting its focus to movies already in development, but will acquire properties selectively

EXCLUSIVE

DreamWorks has picked up the movie rights to Roald Dahl's book "The BFG"  for Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall to produce amid talk that the studio is clamping down on development. 

The studio, which had a series of disappointments before hitting it big with "The Help" this summer, is also moving ahead with a new draft of "The 39 Clues" and has "Help" writer-director Tate Taylor poised to work the same magic on "Pace Like a River."

A DreamWorks insider said that the studio is prioritizing projects it has already purchased, but "certainly can and would purchase something great that comes along." 

"E.T." writer Melissa Mathison will adapt "The BFG," a children's book about a big friendly giant that was first published in 1982. Several of the author's other children's books  — "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," "James and the Giant Peach" and "Fantastic Mr. Fox" — have previously been mined for the big screen.

Kennedy and Marshall are no slouches, either: They have previously produced "The Bourne Ultimatum" and "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," among many other movies.

Also read: 'The Help': The Box-Office Hit That Nearly Didn't Get Made

DreamWorks is ramping up development on "The 39 Clues." Jeff Nathanson, who previously wrote "Men in Black 3" and "Tower Heist," is doing a new draft of the adaptation, based on a series of children's books by Rick Riordan.

The studio acquired the rights from Scholastic in June 2008, before the books were published. Brett Ratner is attached the adaptation of the movie about the Cahills, the most powerful family the world has ever known. The studio has said that "the source of (the family's) power is a mystery that can only be unraveled by assembling 39 clues hidden around the world throughout history."

DreamWorks also is actively developing "Peace Like a River," which Taylor is writing and developing, and "The Fall Guy," an update of the 1981-1986 ABC television show that starred Lee Majors as a stuntman who moonlights as a bounty hunter. Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald are producing the latter.

On top of all that, it recently announced that it's partnering with Fox to make "Robopocalypse," which DreamWorks founder Steven Spielberg is directing. Spielberg also is directing the studio's "Lincoln," which begins shooting next month. And his World War I drama "War Horse" is set for release on Dec. 28.

The studio's "Real Steel," starring Hugh Jackman, will be released Oct. 7. 

DreamWorks began the year with a series of disappointments before "The Help" beat all expectations. "I Am Number Four," released in February, had a budget estimated at $60 million and grossed $144.5 million worldwide. It followed that with "Cowboys & Aliens" in July. That film, with a budget estimated at $163 million, grossed $197.6 million. And the August "Fright Night," made for an estimated $30 million, grossed a paltry $28.3 million.

"The Help," meanwhile, has grossed more than $150 million since its Aug. 10 release. The movie was made for $25 million.

The studio has more than 30 projects in development.

In the last year, DreamWorks acquired "Darkfever," a multi-book series, "Who Invited Her," with Reese Witherspoon attached to star, "Undercover Cop," with Jason Siegel attached to star and an untitled crime thriller that Kario Salem, who wrote "The Score," is writing.

It also acquired "Genneris," "Voices of the Dead," "Time Crimes" and "A Dog's Purpose."