Universal is reinforcing its relationship with Academy Award-winning director Steven Spielberg.
The film studio division of Comcast-owned NBCUniversal announced on Wednesday that it is taking a minority stake in Amblin Partners, the company cofounded by A-list director that produces and distributes film and TV projects. Jeff Shell, chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment, will join Amblin’s board of directors as part of the deal. The companies did not reveal the size of the stake Universal is taking.
The move is the latest step to strengthen Universal’s ties to Spielberg and Amblin after signing a five-year deal in 2015 under which Universal distributes Amblin films. The first of those films hit theaters this past October: the thriller The Girl on the Train, which made more than $170 million in global box office sales, with Spielberg serving as an executive producer. Another Universal-Amblin release, A Dog’s Purpose, is still in theaters but has not fared as well ($57 million in global box office, according to Box Office Mojo).
Amblin was born in late 2015 after Spielberg teamed with eBay cofounder and film producer Jeff Skoll to reinvent and refinance the struggling DreamWorks SKG label the director founded with producers Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen two decades ago. The company’s most recent distribution partnership had been with Walt Disney, with that deal ending last year after producing such films as the 2015 Cold War thriller Bridge of Spies and last year’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The BFG.
Amblin still has various upcoming film projects that are holdovers from past distribution deals, including next month’s manga comic adaptation Ghost in the Shell, which will be distributed by Viacom’s Paramount Pictures.
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The deal with Universal represented something of a homecoming for Spielberg, who made some of his early hits with the studio, including Jaws, E.T., and Jurassic Park. “Because Universal has been such a significant part of my life, it is an added pleasure to welcome its stake in Amblin,” Spielberg said in a statement on Wednesday.
Spielberg also worked with Universal on the 2015 blockbuster Jurassic World, which served as a reboot of the director’s classic dinosaur action franchise. Jurassic World featured Spielberg as an executive producer and went on to gross a whopping $1.67 billion worldwide.
Now, Universal and Amblin are developing a sequel to the film that will be released in 2018. With expectations likely to be pretty high for the Jurassic World follow-up, it makes sense that Universal would want to solidify its relationship with Amblin and Spielberg, who will once again executive produce the film. (Jurassic World director Colin will also return for the planned sequel.)