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.
Located on the Universal Studios 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. At its founding, DreamWorks became the first major independent Hollywood studio (and the first major studio founded by creators, not executives) since the birth of United Artists in 1919.
At its peak in the late 1990s/early 2000s, it arguably qualified as a seventh major film studio (having out-grossed 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.
However, by 2005 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 (sans Katzenberg's DreamWorks Animation, which had been spun off into its own company in 2004). 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).
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 was sold to newly-formed holding company DW II Management 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 . 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 20th Century Studiosnote (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 Studios and reached a distribution deal, 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.
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, 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 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.
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 respective television operations of Participant Media and 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 sitting on a crescent moon while fishing. Word of God states it was made by some employees of Industrial Light and 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.
- DreamWorks Animation (for animated films)
- DreamWorks Interactive (for video games)
- DreamWorks Records (for musical artists)
- DreamWorks Television (for live action series)
Index of DreamWorks films with TV Tropes pages:
- 1917 (with Universal)
- A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (with Warner Bros. and Amblin Entertainment)
- Almost Famous (with Columbia Pictures)
- American Beauty
- Amistad (with HBO Films)
- Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
- Anything Else
- A Beautiful Mind (with Universal)
- Blades of Glory (with MTV Films)
- Bridge of Spies (With Touchstone Pictures and 20th Century)
- Cast Away (with 20th Century)
- The Cat in the Hat (with Universal)
- Catch Me If You Can (with Amblin Entertainment)
- Collateral (with Paramount)
- The Contender
- Cowboys & Aliens (with Universal, Paramount and Relativity Media)
- The Curse of the Jade Scorpion
- Deep Impact (with Paramount)
- Dinner for Schmucks (with Paramount)
- Dreamgirls (with Paramount)
- DreamWorks Animation films (1998-2006; spun off from DreamWorks in 2004)
- Eagle Eye
- Envy (with Columbia Pictures)
- Euro Trip
- Evolution (with Columbia Pictures)
- The Fifth Estate (with Touchstone Pictures)
- Flags of Our Fathers (with Warner Bros. and Amblin Entertainment)
- Forces of Nature
- Fright Night (2011) (with Touchstone Pictures)
- Galaxy Quest
- Ghost in the Shell (with Paramount)
- Ghost Town
- The Girl on the Train (with Universal)
- Gladiator (with Universal)
- The Haunting
- Head of State
- The Heartbreak Kid
- The Help (with Touchstone Pictures)
- Hollywood Ending
- Hotel for Dogs (with Nickelodeon)
- House of Sand and Fog
- I Am Number Four (with Touchstone Pictures)
- I Love You, Man
- The Island (with Warner Bros.)
- Just Like Heaven
- The Kite Runner (distributed by Paramount Classics)
- The Last Castle
- The Last Kiss
- The Legend of Bagger Vance
- Lincoln (with Touchstone Pictures, 20th Century and Amblin Entertainment)
- The Lovely Bones
- Match Point (with BBC Films)
- Meet the Parents (with Universal)
- Memoirs of a Geisha (with Columbia Pictures and Amblin Entertainment)
- The Mexican
- Minority Report (with 20th Century and Amblin Entertainment)
- Munich (with Universal and Amblin Entertainment)
- Need for Speed (with Touchstone Pictures)
- Office Christmas Party (with Paramount)
- Old School (with the Montecito Picture Company)
- Paranormal Activity (with Paramount)
- Paycheck (with Paramount)
- The Peacemaker
- The Post (with 20th Century)
- Real Steel (with Touchstone Pictures)
- Red Eye
- Revolutionary Road (with BBC Films and Paramount Vantage)
- The Ring
- Road to Perdition (with 20th Century)
- Road Trip
- The Ruins
- Saving Private Ryan (with Paramount and Amblin Entertainment)
- Seabiscuit (with Universal)
- A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004) (with Paramount and Nickelodeon)
- She's Out of My League (with Paramount)
- She's the Man
- Small Soldiers (with Universal and Amblin Entertainment)
- Small Time Crooks
- The Soloist (with Universal)
- The Stepford Wives (2004) (with Paramount)
- Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (with Warner Bros.)
- The Terminal (with Amblin Entertainment)
- The Time Machine (2002) (with Warner Bros.)
- Transformers (with Paramount and Hasbro)
- The Trial of the Chicago 7 (first DreamWorks film to be a streaming original)
- Tropic Thunder
- The Turning (with Universal and Amblin Entertainment)
- The Tuxedo
- The Uninvited (2009)
- War Horse (with Touchstone Pictures and Amblin Entertainment)
- War of the Worlds (2005) (with Paramount and Amblin Entertainment)
- Welcome to Marwen (with Universal and Image Movers)
- What Lies Beneath (with 20th Century)
- Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!
Index of DreamWorks TV series with TV Tropes pages:
- See DreamWorks Television page.
Index of DreamWorks Records artists with TV Tropes pages:
- See the DreamWorks Records page.
- The Wiki Rule: The DreamWorks Wiki, which is shared with productions from DreamWorks Animation.