Will Paramount and DreamWorks Really Split?

The Spielberg-Geffen project DreamWorks studio was bought by Paramount Pictures two years ago. It has been responsible for much of Paramount's recent success. How solid are the rumors that the two may go their separate ways?

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

It was less than two years ago that Steven Spielberg and David Geffen gave up on trying to start a movie studio from scratch and sold DreamWorks to Paramount. From the start, there have been rumblings that Spielberg and Geffen were unhappy in their new home, though something's going right. With movies like "Transformers" and "Blades of Glory," DreamWorks has been responsible for powering Paramount to a billion dollars at the box office so far this year.

But now NPR's Kim Masters says divorce papers are about to be served. She joins us in our studio.

Good morning, Kim.

KIM MASTERS: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: So why are Steven Spielberg and David Geffen unhappy at Paramount?

MASTERS: Well, they say it's because they aren't getting enough credit for their films, and they have had a lot of hits while Paramount has just flailed and struggled with a lot of bombs. You know, you might remember "Hot Rod" - or not.

Spielberg, he doesn't even want the Paramount label on DreamWorks movies. But most people in Hollywood think the real problem here is that the DreamWorks team is implacable. They were supposed to supply about six movies a year. And most people think they've really wanted to just take over Paramount, to get the boss, the head of the studio there, Brad Grey, fired, and just be in charge of the whole thing.

MONTAGNE: Still, last two years brought a lot of success. You'd think that Paramount would go out of its way to let DreamWorks do what it wants.

MASTERS: I think they feel that they have, but it's beyond even control. I think - what I am told is that David Geffen, who considers himself to be the greatest dealmaker in the history of Hollywood and who may be one of the - is certainly one of the greatest - feels that, you know, suddenly DreamWorks started to fire on all its cylinders and it was incredibly successful. And now he looks back on the deal he made to sell DreamWorks to Paramount and he thinks maybe he undersold.

And you might recall that Sumner Redstone, who is the 84-year-old who runs Viacom - that's Paramount's parent company - he is not inclined to let David Geffen push him around, if that's what David Geffen wants, to let him take over Paramount. You remember that Sumner Redstone fired Tom Cruise, and then last week there was a big throwdown on Viacom's part.

MONTAGNE: Tell us about it.

MASTERS: Well, Viacom's CEO, Philippe Dauman, he speaks for Sumner Redstone, said at a media conference that if Geffen and Spielberg want to leave, that would be - and these are his words - completely immaterial to the company's bottom line.

MONTAGNE: Steven Spielberg is completely immaterial as far as Viacom is concerned?

MASTERS: Yes. People were completely stunned. I mean, it may be technically true. Viacom is a very big company. It has a lot of other businesses - Nickelodeon, MTV. So legally speaking, okay, maybe Steven Spielberg and David Geffen are immaterial to the company's bottom line. But for Paramount, they have been incredibly material. The studio has, as you said before, grossed more than a billion dollars at the box office this year, and most of that money comes from DreamWorks movies.

MONTAGNE: So can this marriage be saved? Is it over already?

MASTERS: I don't - think it's over, yes. I think we can say that it's over. They'll say that they're talking, but I think at this point Viacom has said, you know what, if you're unhappy, fine, go. David Geffen is going to seek a new home. And for Steven Spielberg, you know, a lot of people think it will be Universal, and that will be fine for Steven Spielberg because he's never actually left the Universal lot. He's such a powerful guy that he could actually work for Paramount and still keep his nice building on the Universal lot all this time.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Kim Masters, thanks very much.

MASTERS: Thank you.

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