December 29, 2007 / 12:09 AM / in 10 years

DreamWorks transforms Paramount into top studio

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Paramount Pictures will end the year as the top Hollywood studio in terms of market share at the North American box office, thanks largely to its uneasy alliance with DreamWorks, which produced the year’s No. 3 movie “Transformers.”

Paramount, which cleaned house after Brad Grey took the reins of the struggling studio in 2005, ranked No. 5 last year. It was last No. 1 in 1998 when “Titanic” ruled the waves. In late 2005, the studio bought DreamWorks for a net cost of about $600 million after divestments.

In addition to “Transformers” ($319.1 million), DreamWorks also produced such hits as “Disturbia” and “Blades of Glory,” and is off to a strong start with “Sweeney Todd.”

“Transformers” was planned as a Paramount/DreamWorks collaboration even before the DreamWorks acquisition, said Rob Moore, Paramount’s president of worldwide marketing, distribution and operations.

But there has been persistent speculation that DreamWorks co-founders Steven Spielberg and David Geffen are unhappy at Paramount, and may choose to leave when their personal contracts expire in November. The chief executive of Paramount’s Viacom Inc. parent, Philippe Dauman caused a stir in September when he said Spielberg’s departure would be “immaterial” to the company.

DreamWorks Animation, a separate publicly held studio run by another DreamWorks co-founder, Jeffrey Katzenberg, has its own deal to have its movies distributed by Paramount through 2012. The firm contributed to Paramount’s coffers with “Shrek the Third” ($321 million, No. 2) and “Bee Movie.”

The top Paramount-branded release this year was “Beowulf,” which ranked outside of the top 30 with sales of $80.6 million. The battlefield epic cost $150 million to make. (The foreign release, handled by Warner Bros., has brought in just over $100 million.)

Through Christmas, Paramount had rung up $1.47 billion, ahead of Warner Bros. ($1.34 billion), Disney ($1.27 billion), last year’s champ Sony ($1.21 billion) and Universal ($1.07 billion).

After a dismal 2006 with such films as “Poseidon” and “Lady in the Water,” Warners passed the $1 billion mark for an unprecedented seventh time. The studio struck gold in 2007 with “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” ($292 million, No. 5) and “300” ($210.6 million, No. 7). Current release “I Am Legend” has powered to $151 million (No. 11) after two weekends.

Disney had three top 10 films this year, “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” ($309.4 million, No. 4), “Ratatouille” ($206.4 million, No. 8) and “Wild Hogs” ($168.3 million, No. 10). Its current release “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” is set to rule the box office for a second weekend after ringing up $65.4 million during the five-day Christmas period.

Sony had the top film of 2007 with “Spider-Man 3” ($336.5 million). And Universal, whose top performer was “The Bourne Ultimatum” ($227.5 million, No. 6), is on track to post its biggest box office year ever.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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