Disney Expected to Drop Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks

Insider tells TheWrap six-year distribution deal to expire in August 2016

Last Updated: September 2, 2015 @ 2:57 PM

Walt Disney Studios is set to drop its distribution deal with DreamWorks after a string of underperforming films and the absence of Steven Spielberg from the director’s chair, an individual with knowledge of the parting told TheWrap.

Spielberg’s deal with Disney is expected to expire in August 2016. Insiders say he’s been trying to close a new distribution deal with Universal Pictures, where his Amblin Entertainment offices have been located for more than 20 years.

Spielberg’s remaining Disney commitments include October’s Cold War drama “Bridge of Spies” and the highly anticipated 2016 animated film “The BFG.”

Movies directed by Spielberg for Disney — like 2011’s “War Horse” — have underperformed at the box office and did not bring expected awards attention. The one exception in recent years was the DreamWorks-produced “The Help” in 2011, which was a bona fide critical and commercial success.

When the deal was announced in 2009, DreamWorks was expected to deliver six live-action films to Disney per year. That number has diminished in subsequent years, as the studio has amassed hits with Marvel Studios and forthcoming titles from Lucasfilm.

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In addition, DreamWorks has scaled back its film development of late and last year lost its longtime CEO, Stacey Snider.

Should Spielberg make the move, he’d be shuffling between the two studios that dominated summer 2015. Both Universal and Disney account for a whopping 61 percent of domestic ticket sales since the first Friday of May, according to Rentrak.

For the full year, the two studios claim seven of the 10 highest-grossing movies, including Universal’s $638 million-grossing “Jurassic World” — for which Spielberg served as executive producer.

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