Universal Filmed Entertainment and Amblin Partners are strengthening their ties, with Universal taking a minority stake in Steven Spielberg's company.
The two studios, which have a longstanding relationship, began working together again in December 2015, when they inked a multiyear deal for Universal to market and distribute Amblin films domestically as well as in select international territories. A previous DreamWorks distribution partnership lasted for a decade but ended in an acrimonious split.
The first film released by Universal under the new pact was DreamWorks Pictures' The Girl on the Train, which opened at No. 1 in the U.S. in October. The thriller has since earned more than $175 million worldwide. That was followed by the PR-challenged A Dog's Purpose, currently in theaters (that film's box office may have been hurt by a viral video that appeared to show a dog being mistreated during production).
Universal joins a group of Amblin investors that includes Participant Media, Reliance Entertainment, eOne and Alibaba Pictures.
As part of the deal, Universal Filmed Entertainment chairman Jeff Shell will join the board of Amblin.
"We are big believers in Amblin Partners and its proven ability to create the kind of quality films that appeal to broad, global audiences," said Shell, NBCUniversal Vice Chairman Ron Meyer and Universal Pictures Chairman Donna Langley in a joint statement. "Steven is a genius and has always been part of our family, as well as an incredible partner to Universal. We are thrilled to become strategic investors in the company that he, Michael and Jeff are committed to growing."
Added Spielberg: "Because Universal has been such a significant part of my life, it is an added pleasure to welcome its stake in Amblin. Together with Jeff Skoll and our other partners, we look ahead to creating and delivering the storytelling that defines our brands of filmed entertainment."
A source pegged the investment at between $40 million and $60 million.
"We couldn't be happier that Universal has shown confidence in Amblin Partners by making this investment," said Amblin Partners CEO Michael Wright and co-CEO Jeff Small. "As the gold standard in our industry, Universal fits perfectly with our other esteemed partners, Participant Media, Reliance Entertainment, eOne and Alibaba Pictures, and we can't wait to welcome Jeff Shell to our board."
Added Participant Media's founder and chairman, Skoll: "Participant is in the business of social impact, and Universal has always been an excellent partner in ensuring our stories reach engaged global moviegoers who are eager to help change the world. We are thrilled to have Universal invest in Amblin Partners and look forward to extending our relationship."