Play the 'DreamWorks Free to Good Home' Sweepstakes

They say nobody in Hollywood knows anything, which is true in just about every situation but the one facing DreamWorks and its partners at Paramount — a pair about as likely to split in acrimony within the year as Nikki Finke is to wheeze "TOLDJA!" when it happens. Patrick Goldstein today offers a rough primer for the 'Works/'Mount divorce, with enough oversights and elisions to make it dispensable (for starters, whither UA in the potential coupling of DreamWorks and MGM?) but thought-provoking enough to ask: Where will the 'Works wind up?

It depends on what Steven Spielberg and David Geffen want. Most important is autonomy, which they won't get without once again going the independent route: self-funding their own projects and paying out a distribution fee to a studio with the infrastructure to put their product in theaters. If Marvel can do it, God knows DreamWorks can, but Spielberg wants more — like full-blown "studio" more. That's why we kind of like the Universal prospect floated today by Goldstein:

Pros: No studio has the same emotional tug as Spielberg's ancestral home. Studio boss Ron Meyer would love to have DreamWorks back in the fold, while Spielberg and Snider (a former chairman at the studio) have an easy familiarity with Uni's marketing and distribution machinery.

Cons: After the dysfunction of Paramount, would DreamWorks want to be anywhere near the tightly controlled GE corporate culture that drove away Snider in the first place? GE remains the antithesis of DreamWorks' bureaucracy-free model.

Nevertheless, with everybody else overextended (Warner Bros., Sony) or content with their classier, "independent" outlets (Fox with Fox Searchlight; Disney with Miramax), Universal is the only studio that has would have the 'Works on its own terms. What Universal needs is development, and DreamWorks has that in spades. The bureaucracy would pare down pretty fast if (or rather when) DreamWorks is producing six films a year including one from Spielberg — while Snider is clearing the brush on his behalf. Goldstein even suggests that Spielberg might buy Universal, which, at a valuation of up to $25 billion, is ludicrous (even without NBC involved). But if this deal doesn't happen, it won't be for its principals' lack of trying. And hey, if not, then sure: Hellooooo, MGM!