Jan 30, 2009

Business - DreamWorks says it gets financing in tough market

Cameras should start rolling soon at DreamWorks SKG as the new Hollywood-Bollywood joint venture with India's Reliance ADA continues to win financing even under challenging market conditions, a spokesman said on Thursday.

"These bank commitments show a huge vote of confidence for the new studio and that the financing will soon be completed," said a spokesman for the studio, headed by DreamWorks partners Steven Spielberg and Stacey Snider.

A person familiar with the studio said DreamWorks recently won lending commitments for $150 million, which is just under half the $325 million it expects to raise in its first stage of financing. India's Reliance has said it will match up to $550 million in financing the company raises.

If all goes as planned, DreamWorks should start shooting films by the summer, the person said.

The Hollywood Reporter reported on Wednesday that the $150 million in commitments included some from bankers at City National Bank and Comerica, who will provide a combined $75 million or more. JPMorgan leads the financing syndication, and is expected to be on board for at least $75 million.

Earlier this month, DreamWorks paid $26.5 million to Paramount for rights to 17 projects developed by DreamWorks executives while the studio was owned by Paramount, according to a person familiar with the studio.

In September, the principals behind DreamWorks signed a long-expected deal with Reliance to start a new company, enabling DreamWorks, Spielberg and Snider to part ways with Viacom Inc's Paramount Pictures.

The Hollywood-Bollywood linkup of DreamWorks and Reliance, a Mumbai-based entertainment, financial and telecommunications giant, capped two years of speculation and feuding between Paramount and Viacom on one side and Spielberg and DreamWorks co-founder David Geffen on the other.

In October, DreamWorks reached a deal with General Electric Co's Universal Studios to distribute films made by the new DreamWorks. Universal will take an 8 percent distribution fee on a slate of roughly six films per year over the 7-year life of the contract, which began in 2009, the company said.

Spielberg had a two-decade career with Universal as a director until he formed DreamWorks with music mogul David Geffen and ex-Disney Studios chief Jeffrey Katzenberg in 1994.

Katzenberg went on to lead his own publicly traded DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc, while Viacom Inc's Paramount Pictures acquired DreamWorks in 2006.

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