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The brainchild of media moguls Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and David Geffen (hence the SKG at the end of the studio's name), founded in 1994. It is best known for launching DreamWorks Animation, one of the biggest animation studios in the world, but the original DreamWorks Pictures still very much exists as a film studio.

Located on the Universal Pictures lots that had previously housed the offices of Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment, DreamWorks came into being as a result of Katzenberg's firing from Disney after a ten-year run as the president of their studio. He approached Spielberg and Geffen about the possibility of setting up a studio in Hollywood where the three of them could create entertainment independently from the larger studios and would be largely focused on animation, motion pictures, television, interactive new media, and music. Moments later, DW signed a deal with Capital Cities-ABC for a production joint venture, and Korean conglomerate CheilJedang invested in the studio and acquired select Asian distribution rights to DW's titles. At its founding, DreamWorks became the first major independent Hollywood studio (and the first major studio founded by creators) since the birth of United Artists in 1919. In 1995, artists from Amblimation (the UK-based animation unit of Amblin) joined the studio and which led to DW buing a majority in visual effects studio PDI (Pacific Data Images) to produce a CG-animated feature. That same year, DW signed a international distribution and worldwide home video deal with MCA. In 1997, Amblimation was shuttered, and their staff joined the new studio. That same year, DreamWorks Interactive was formed and DW teamed up with Pathé and Aardman Animations to co-produce and co-finance Chicken Run. In 1997, DW released its first three films, The Peacemaker, Steven Spielberg's Amistad and MouseHunt. The following year, the studio's first animated features, Antz and The Prince of Egypt were released. In 1999, after the success of Chicken Run, DW signed a four-year film deal with Aardman. That same year, DW formed an arthouse banner known as Go Fish Pictures and in 2000, DW formed DreamWorks Animation to consolidate their Glendale animation campus and PDI into one roof.

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At its peak in the late 1990s/early 2000s, it arguably qualified as a seventh major film studio (having out-grossed eventual parent company Paramount). In 1999, 2000 and 2001, DreamWorks won three consecutive Academy Awards for Best Picture for American Beauty, Gladiator and A Beautiful Mind (the latter two with Universal). DreamWorks has produced or distributed more than ten films with box-office grosses totaling more than $100 million each.

In 2001, the studio had a big success with Shrek, which became the first animated film to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature the following year. Three years later, Katzenberg left DW for good, and took DW's animation studio, PDI and most of their IPs and formed a separate DWA.

By 2005, however, the studio was about $400 million in debt, so the founders agreed to a deal to sell DreamWorks to Viacom subsidiary Paramount for $1.6 billion. The sale was completed in February 2006, and in March of that same year Viacom sold the rights to DreamWorks' pre-2006 film library to Soros Strategic Partners for $900 million (only to purchase it back in 2010 for $400 million, making a $500 million profit on the arrangement). Paramount retained distribution rights, and thus now had worldwide distribution rights to nine films that they and DreamWorks had collaborated on, two of which had yet to be released (see the list below for these films).

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The Paramount-DreamWorks merger wasn't a successful one, and after only two years DreamWorks announced its intention to end its partnership with Viacom, and the name was sold to newly-formed holding company DW II Management (also known as DreamWorks Studios) in September 2008. That same month India's Reliance ADA Group signed a $1.5 billion deal to purchase a 50% stake in the studio, and Spielberg entered into negotiations with Universal (who had distributed DreamWorks' films on home video prior to the Viacom deal, although they tried to acquire the studio around the time of the deal) to release their films. These negotiations fell through and in February 2009 the studio signed a deal with Disney (through Touchstone Pictures) to handle distribution worldwide (initially) except for India (which Reliance handles), in a roundabout way bringing DreamWorks full-circle. With the new partnerships with Disney and Reliance, DreamWorks hoped that they would return to its prosperity years.

Unfortunately, those hopes were never realized. By the year 2012, DreamWorks ended up getting dissatisfied with the Disney deal, as shortly after the agreement Disney began putting more focus on distributing content from its newest acquisitions (Marvel Comics and Star Wars), and rarely promoted films from DreamWorksnote . Because of this, DreamWorks signed a distribution deal with Mister Smith Entertainment for EMEA territories that same year. In addition, DreamWorks had financial issues with underperforming releases (such as I Am Number Four, Cowboys & Aliens, Fright Night and The Fifth Estate) and exhausted financing lines, and not only did they have to seek co-productions and international distribution sales with others like Twentieth Century Fox (which would distribute Lincoln and Bridge of Spies internationally) to generate funds, but they were never able to deliver the full 30 film slate initially contracted for distribution by Disney. The situation culminated in 2015, when DreamWorks had a falling out with Disney executives and the studios decided against renewing their distribution pact (both sides claimed they parted "amiably").

On December 11, 2015, Variety magazine reported that, after several months of negotiations, DreamWorks had reconciled with Universal Pictures and reached a distribution deal (except EMEA), reuniting Spielberg with his longtime film partner. Coinciding with the confirmation of the agreement five days later, on December 16, it was announced that DreamWorks and Amblin Entertainment would be reorganized under the new private joint venture, Amblin Partners, as part of an investment deal that involved film financing firms Participant Media and Entertainment One, with Reliance remaining on board as a 20% stakeholder (Alibaba Pictures, part of China-based Alibaba Group, joined the pact in October 2016). With this reorganization, DreamWorks was relegated to a label focused on adult-themed films, while Amblin was relegated to a label for family movies, ultimately bringing DreamWorks and Amblin under one roof. (The use of the Amblin name was required by DreamWorks Animation, who ended up owning the DW trademark and claims exclusive rights to use it on family films). Disney would acquire the rights to all twelve films under their expiring deal with DreamWorks as part of the severance agreement. The Light Between Oceans was the last film released under the Disney deal, and as a final insult to DreamWorks, Disney released it before a Labor Day weekend to ensure its failure. Amblin also inherited DW's deal with Mister Smith as they also started distributing Amblin Entertainment and Participant Media titles.

Universal began its deal with DreamWorks with The Girl on the Train, which despite mixed reviews was a surprising Sleeper Hit,note  and followed it up with A Dog's Purpose (produced under the Amblin banner), which was moderately successful despite similarly mixed reviews (plus a behind-the-scenes controversy that harmed its marketing campaign). The modest success of these films convinced Universal to become a minority stakeholder of Amblin Partners, making them one of six companiesnote  under the joint venture and giving Universal partial ownership of both DreamWorks and Amblin. This also had the effect of fully bringing the DreamWorks banner under one roof once again, as Universal's parent company NBCUniversal had purchased DreamWorks Animation in August 2016. With DreamWorks now receiving financial backing from a major film studio for the first time in nearly a decade whilst remaining creatively independent (something that wasn't the case during its years with Paramount), and reunited with its former animation division, the studio is seeing bright days ahead of them. In 2020, Participant left as a stakeholder in the company.

DreamWorks operated a television distribution and production division called DreamWorks Television. Originally known for sitcoms like Spin City and Arsenio, it shifted its focus to drama at the Turn of the Millennium with series like Freaks and Geeks and Rescue Me, along with miniseries such as Band of Brothers. In The New '10s the division had almost exclusively focused its attention on cable programming, with series like United States of Tara, Falling Skies and The Americans. DreamWorks Television also collaborated with DreamWorks Animation prior to the division's 2004 spin-off, with series such as Toonsylvania and Father of the Pride. With the reorganization of DreamWorks and Amblin into Amblin Partners, DreamWorks Television was absorbed into Amblin Entertainment's television division. Amblin Television maintains autonomy from the television operations of Entertainment One.

Between 1996 and 2005, DreamWorks owned a record label called, naturally, DreamWorks Records. The roster included George Michael, Papa Roach, Jimmy Eat World, Eels, Henry Rollins, Elliott Smith, Powerman 5000, Rufus Wainwright, Randy Newman, and Jimmy Fallon, plus a Country Music arm whose main hitmakers were Toby Keith, Randy Travis, and Darryl Worley. Except for their country artists, they were all later acquired by Geffen's old label that he stepped down from. The label's logo was designed by Roy Lichtenstein (it was his last commission).

The company also had a video game division in its early years, DreamWorks Interactive, which was sold to Electronic Arts in 1999 not long before the release of its most successful game, Medal of Honor, where it is currently named DICE Los Angeles.

Its Vanity Plate (with accompanying music by John Williams) features a young boy, later dubbed the "Moon Child", sitting on a crescent moon while fishing. Word of God states it was made by some employees of Industrial Light & Magic. Also popularized the marketing term known as "DreamWorks Face".

See also DreamWorks Animation, a separate entity (since 2004) that was founded by the same people, which is well known for giving Disney and Pixar a run for their money where animated films are concerned. As stated above, NBCUniversal's purchase of that studio and the investment in Amblin Partners have, in a way, reunited the two companies once again, notably allowing Animation to rebrand itself to simply DreamWorks.


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Index of DreamWorks films with TV Tropes pages:


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Alternative Title(s): Dream Works

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