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Orci & Kurtzman Pact with Universal as DreamWorks Scales Back; Will Snider Go to Disney?

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood May 2, 2012 at 7:34AM

Screenwriter-producers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (K/O Paper Products) couldn't be much hotter ("Transformers," "Star Trek," "Spider-Man" sequel, "Ender's Game") and they've just signed a two-year first-look production deal at Universal Pictures to revitalize their horror film library.
 Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci
Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci

Screenwriter-producers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (K/O Paper Products) couldn't be much hotter ("Transformers," "Star Trek," "Amazing Spider-Man" sequel, "Ender's Game") and they've just signed a two-year first-look production deal at Universal Pictures to revitalize the studios' horror film library. That includes "Van Helsing" (Tom Cruise is attached) and "The Mummy" franchise already rebooted by Alphaville's Sean Daniel and James Jacks.

Thing is, for years Orci and Kurtzman were housed at DreamWorks (their deal expired in December, 2011), followed by a financing deal with Skydance Productions. And they'd still be at DreamWorks if Steven Spielberg and Stacey Snider were in a position to keep them. They're not. Pricey overhead deals are the purview of studios. And Reliance-backed DreamWorks is a label at Disney turning out three to four movies a year; bigger budget movies will require partners. Fox teamed with them on Spielberg's "Robopocalypse," (July 2013), Participant came in on "The Help" and Spielberg holiday biopic "Lincoln." 

That's why long-favored DreamWorks producers Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald ("Men in Black III" opens May 25) have signed a production financing deal with Image Nation, to form Parkes+MacDonald/Image Nation; they've been building a relationship with the subsidiary of Abu Dhabi Media since 2009, which supplied them with a $10 million revolving development fund.  Their first-look deal with DreamWorks ended in January.

Parkes and MacDonald are partnering with Image Nation's Mohammed Al Mubarak and Michael Garin in a three-year first-look overhead deal in addition to development and producing funding. Image Nation has also pacted with Hyde Park and Participant, which may also become producing  Parkes + MacDonald partners. The company has renewed executive Marc Resteghini‘s contract, and Leigh Kittay (J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot) has joined the company as a creative executive.

P & M are proceeding with Martin Campbell action film "The Fall Guy," which is co-financed by Studio Canal; and Jean-Luc Herbulo's thriller "Foresaken," financed by Studio Canal and Hyde Park. THR has more details here.

DreamWorks' straitened circumstances could encourage Disney CEO Robert Iger to approach ex-Universal chairman Snider to talk about how she'd run the Disney studio under the right conditions. It's a long stretch to where Snider would leave 500-pound-creative gorilla Spielberg to run a studio again. A lot of things would have to line up in her favor--and she may have little interest in churning out Disney family-friendly product. She'd likely demand a certain annual budget, make steep salary and staff demands, and would want to to produce more movies than the studio does now.

Iger should be so lucky. The person who comes into that Disney job has to be powerful and respected enough to wrangle the huge egos and powerful labels there--Marvel's Kevin Feige and Pixar/Disney Animation's John Lasseter and producer Jerry Bruckheimer and DreamWorks. It requires a diplomat with balls of steel and management chops. No one is better than Snider. (Watching Joe Roth on stage at CinemaCon, I was reminded at how good he is in that department. But why would he go back to Disney? Been there, done that.) 

Back to Orci and Kurtzman: they wrote the DreamWorks flop "Cowboys & Aliens" at Universal. And they have a lot going on. Louis Leterrier's "Now You See Me" (Summit) is in post; the "Star Trek" sequel is shooting at Paramount, and Disney/DreamWorks is opening Kurtzman's directing debut "People Like Us," starring Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks, on June 29. They were attached to the Tom Clancy project "Without Remorse" at Paramount, and also have a Fox TV development deal. 

This article is related to: DreamWorks, DreamWorks, Walt Disney Pictures, Steven Spielberg, Steven Spielberg

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.