DreamWorks: too many dreams, too little work

Three Years after starting, with $1bn (pounds 625m) invested, and about a year behind schedule, the new movie studio created by director Steven Spielberg, fomer Disney executive Jeffrey Katzenberg and music mogul David Geffen, aptly named DreamWorks, has released its first film.

After all the expectation occasioned by Hollywood's first new studio for 60 years, Tuesday's premiere was edged with disappointment. Early reviews were, for the most part, polite. Critics said the $50m action movie, with George Clooney and Nicole Kidman chasing a Serbian nuclear terrorist, was a competent example of the genre - if a fairly predictable opening from a studio that was expected to do the unpredictable.

Bankrolled with equity and debt to the tune of $2.7bn, DreamWorks has already set up divisions in film, TV, music, animation, interactive entertainment, games, pay TV, syndication and merchandising, with mixed results. The film division had originally promised to release a full slate of films by autumn 1996. Perhaps symbolically, the company's own planned studio, an ambitious project to build a 22-acre "campus" with offices and sound- stages, as well as 13,000 housing units, in 1,000 acres of marshes on the Pacific coast, still remains mired in bureaucracy after more than two years of talks.

The TV division has suffered two high-profile failures - Arsenio and Ted Danson's Ink - but has a hit on ABC with Spin City, starring Michael J Fox. Early hopes for interactive entertainment have slumped as sales of CD-Roms proved weaker than predicted - but, on the plus side, Spielberg's concept of a combined pub, interactive cafe and state-of-the-art video arcade isdrawing healthy crowds in Seattle and Las Vegas.

The music division, DreamWorks Records, has released eight albums, but cannot be expected to turn a profit for several years, according to observers. "Were our dreams bigger than our ability to accomplish them? Maybe," Geffen told the Los Angeles Times recently. "But what we've accomplished, as far as I'm concerned, is a dream."

The studio's critics echo that thought - "too many dreams, not enough works" - and cite the triumvirate for spending too much money with very little to show for it. DreamWorks investors, led by Apple co-founder Paul Allen, who put up $500m, are said to be "watching closely". (By contrast, Spielberg, Katzenberg and Geffen only invested $100m among them. Nonetheless, they were given control of the studio by their backers.)

"One of Hollywood's favourite games is building up and then knocking down," observed one DreamWorks executive. "The spin talked of an exciting time, and about what a great thing this is going to be, and now it's going the other way. But it's still pretty early." Morale at the studio was high, he insisted. "I don't think anyone is angry or bitter or anything like that."

DreamWorks has responded to its critics by promising to concentrate on live-action films, animated features and music. Katzenberg, who is said to be obsessed with creating a real competitor to Disney in the animation sector, has said that by 2002, DreamWorks will have released seven animated features rather than the four originally planned.

Coming from DreamWorks soon are Armistad, the first picture Spielberg has directed for his own studio; a comedy called Mouse Hunt; and the first of DreamWork's animated features, The Prince of Egypt. Armistad, made for a fairly modest $36m, is the story of a 19th-century slave revolt and promises to be an Oscar contender, if not necessarily a big box-office hit.

Still, it's hard to kill a dream, as they say in Hollywood. Most industry observers agree that DreamWorks is here to stay. And it may even get its studio built: Los Angeles city officials have said final approval may come soon - perhaps in time for a groundbreaking ceremony next June.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas