It's been nearly six months since CompletelyImmaterialGate rocked the industry, and no amount of conciliatory gestures has yet managed to heal the wounds inflicted by Viacom CEO Phillippe Dauman's callous verbal flip-off of national directing treasure Steven Spielberg. With the expiration date on the frequently uncomfortable arranged marriage between Viacom-owned Paramount and DreamWorks nearing, the NY Times takes a hard look at the pretzled logistics of what becomes two powerhouse studios going their separate ways:
A key issue, these people said, turns on the extent to which Mr. Spielberg's personal contract, which expires in January 2010, grants him power over projects to which he has some creative attachment.
The DreamWorks side might assert that he, by virtue of his position with DreamWorks, is effectively attached to the entire development pool — more than 100 projects have been listed by the Studio System, an industry data base owned by The New York Times Company — not just the 30 projects or so with which he has been actively involved.
Given the reach of Mr. Spielberg's contract, attachment to all the projects could let him block Paramount from using them without his consent — enormous leverage in any negotiation over taking the projects elsewhere.
As is so frequently the case in high-powered Hollywood divorces, the silent victims here are the kids—those still-in-development projects conceived during the blissful post-honeymoon phase, who could well wind up irreversibly scarred by all the parental infighting. The best case scenario at this point is that little Transformers 2, Shrek Goes Fourth, and the rest become the beneficiaries of a joint custody ruling, spending week days with their three SKG daddies, then piling into the station wagon and getting plopped at the Bronson Gate for some quality time with "the person who nearly broke my back carrying you for nine months—and don't you ever forget it," Brad Grey.