Amblin Partners has signed a new multi-year film distribution partnership with Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, as well as a series of new agreements that will expedite the company’s move into streaming.
The pact is in the five-year range, according to insiders, similar to Amblin’s previous deal with the studio, which was inked in 2015. The company had previously partnered on distribution with the Walt Disney Company when it operated under the DreamWorks banner. Universal has been the home, however, of many of Amblin founder Steven Spielberg’s biggest hits, including “Jurassic Park” and “Jaws.”
“My decades-long relationship with Universal truly transcends any single business deal, and to once again renew our corporate vows reaffirms that Universal is Amblin’s home,” Spielberg said in a statement.
The new deal ends Amblin’s relationship with Participant, which had been a backer of the company. The companies said Participant, which makes socially conscious movies, will “now exit its role as an equity holder of the Company.”
“I would also like to extend my deepest gratitude to my dear friends Jeff Skoll and David Linde for an incredible run as formal partners; and my congratulations on what I know will be a successful next chapter in Participant’s journey,” Spielberg said. “While in a different form, we look forward to continuing our collaborations to create the type of culturally-impactful content that only Participant can deliver.” Participant said selling its stake will give it greater “flexibility.”
Alibaba Pictures, eOne and Reliance Entertainment will all continue as equity holders, with Alibaba releasing Amblin films in China; eOne releasing in the U.K., Spain, Australia, New Zealand and Benelux; and Reliance releasing in India.
The new deal calls for multiple Amblin films to be marketed and distributed theatrically via Universal Pictures and Focus Features each year, while also providing Amblin with new opportunities to manufacture films designed to appear on streaming platforms. These could include Peacock, which is owned by Amblin parent company Comcast, as well as other, non-Universal controlled entities. NBCUniversal has also agreed to re-invest in the Company, providing fresh capital to fund new production and development. NBCUniversal has an equity stake in Amblin.
“Steven Spielberg and Amblin Partners have delivered award-winning critical and commercial hits that stand the test of time amongst films in the Universal canon,” Donna Langley, chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, said. “We’re proud to continue our partnership and reinvest in the future of Amblin Partners.”
Amblin’s recent releases with Universal include the Oscar-winning “Green Book” and “1917,” as well as “Cats” and the upcoming “Jurassic World: Dominion.”
“Universal is simply the best in the business, and we are beyond fortunate to have Donna Langley and her team supporting our films,” Jeff Small, Amblin Partners CEO, commented. “In addition, the evolution of our partnership provides flexibility for us to continue supplying the fast-growing streaming marketplace on an even greater scale, which will no doubt be a key growth driver for Amblin Partners in both film and TV in the years ahead.”
Amblin has made streaming series such as the upcoming reboot of “Animaniacs” for Hulu, but they have not moved as aggressively into the space when it comes to movies. Indeed, Spielberg has been critical of some of these services, suggesting that Netflix should not be eligible for Oscars.
Amblin also announced the close of an amended and restated syndicated revolving credit facility led by J.P. Morgan and Comerica.