Amblin Partners Won’t Fully Finance Movies Under New Universal Pact – IndieWire

Universal is getting deeper into the Steven Spielberg business and will be carrying more of the weight of the movies he produces.

Universal and Spielberg’s Amblin Partners are forging a new pact under a multi-year deal, but as part of the new arrangement, Amblin Partners will no longer fully finance its own movies that it produces for Universal, and Universal Pictures will be providing some of the backing for Amblin Partners movies made under the deal.

Amblin will continue to produce other movies with rival studios, such as “West Side Story” at 20th Century or “Ready Player One” at Warner Bros., but Universal will have first-look status on all of Amblin’s theatrical projects.

The idea is to give the company “more creative and financial flexibility,” according to the press release announcing the deal. That should mean more opportunities for grown-up oriented projects, like “Green Book” and “1917” that were both released by Universal, that Amblin Partners does best, and less financial risk that Amblin has to carry itself. A source explains that this is a transition from the old model in which Universal merely distributed Amblin Partners titles and would take a fee, and the new model looks more like your typical first-look, overall deal.

So while Universal is now carrying more of the burden, they also stand to share in more of the reward if something pops. That’s good news for both parties, considering that Amblin’s last two movies under Universal Pictures, Spielberg’s own “The Fabelmans” and “Easter Sunday” with Jo Koy, both struggled at the box office ($46 million worldwide and $13 million worldwide respectively), despite a Best Picture Oscar nomination for the former.

The source explains that the new arrangement will also mean some cuts at Amblin Partners in the form of layoffs and other contractual deals not being renewed, but Universal isn’t acquiring Amblin, as has been rumored. Further, nothing is changing within Amblin Television, its deal with Netflix is staying the same, and Spielberg will keep the same autonomy he’s had for years to make the movies he wants where he wants.

Steven Spielberg at Berlinale
Steven Spielberg at 2023 BerlinaleGetty Images

“Universal is my ancestral studio home, and this next chapter in our longstanding partnership will provide Amblin with the creative flexibility and autonomy that I know will allow us to succeed together in the future,” Spielberg, Amblin’s Chairman, said in a statement. “I’m eternally grateful to our entire team at Amblin for their work and dedication over the years, and also thankful to Donna and everyone at Universal for their commitment and partnership, as we all look forward to our next adventure together.”  

The news of the strengthened partnership also follows NBCUni chairman and chief content officer Donna Langley’s elevation to a new role in which she’ll be overseeing both film and TV for the company, with the goal of bringing some of those talent relationships and franchising ideas to the small screen.

“We’re excited to evolve our partnership with Steven and cement our creative legacy together that has resulted in so many iconic Universal films over the last half-century,” Langley said. “Steven and the team at Amblin have been outstanding partners and we look forward to this next chapter.”   

Opening on August 11 for Universal and Amblin Partners is the horror film “Last Voyage of the Demeter.” And next up for Amblin and Universal is “Distant,” a sci-fi comedy film starring Anthony Ramos and directed by Josh Gordon and Will Speck that is slated for release in 2024. Amblin also has a film set for at Netflix from Jaume Collet-Serra called “Carry On” that does not yet have a release date.

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