DreamWorks Studio is in the midst of reinventing itself.
Originally founded by Steven Spielberg, former Disney President Jeffrey Katzenberg and music mogul David Geffen, the studio has shifting plans. Although it was often known as a creator-friendly studio that encouraged new ideas, the company has shut down or sold its television, music and interactive businesses.
With Geffen retired, and Katzenberg heading the independent DreamWorks Animation SKG, Spielberg and former Universal Pictures Chairman Stacey Snider are at the helm. The duo took charge in 2009, but their leadership has failed to produce any hits. In fact, insiders estimate that they’ve lost at least $100 million due to a lack of successful ventures.
With each new release, there is increased pressure for the studio to make a better return on investment – and they’ve raised their investment level with their latest film. “Need for Speed” is a $66 million adaptation of the video game series from Electronic Arts Inc., and represents the largest investment in a project for three years. Aaron Paul of “Breaking Bad” fame plays the main character in the cross-country race action film, but the real stars are the breathtaking auto stunts performed without the computer effects used in other offerings like “Fast and Furious.”
First production since split with Paramount. DreamWorks is hoping that the film will be its first production since its split with Paramount Pictures to not only do well, but to also spawn sequels that will generate even more revenue.
Even on the cusp of this potential success, DreamWorks may still be at a disadvantage. Snider, whose contract ends in 2014, has had preliminary talks with other studios including 21st Century Fox. If she leaves the studio, this would be another challenge that DreamWorks would have to face in a short period of time.
Without the bigger, older film libraries of legacy studios, DreamWorks needs hits – and fast. If early pre-release surveys indicate anything, “Need for Speed” could end up being the franchise hit they are looking and hoping for.