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
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
  • Get to the point
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: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own