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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Home Care / Support Workers

£7 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care provider is looking for Home ...

Recruitment Genius: Web Team Leader

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Day In a Page

Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate