Spielberg gets movie cash with India partnership

From left to right, Steven Spielberg, Anil Ambani, Stacey Snider and Amitahb Jhunjhunwala.
Financing for Steven Spielberg’s partnership with one of India’s richest men was finalized Monday, giving the legendary Hollywood director money to resume making movies.

The deal with Anil Ambani, chairman of India’s Reliance BIG Entertainment, provides Spielberg’s DreamWorks Studios with $875 million, coming from Ambani, the Walt Disney Co. and loans made by a syndicate of banks. Disney will distribute and market Spielberg’s films around the world, with the exception of India, where Reliance will have those rights. The DreamWorks deal with Disney is for about six live-action films each year, the company said. Spielberg found himself in need of financial partners last year when he cut ties with Paramount Pictures and began rebuilding DreamWorks into an independent studio. Although the deal, which was announced last year, has been characterized in some reports as “Hollywood meets Bollywood,” Spielberg and partner Stacey Snider will have creative control over productions. “This will allow us to move ahead quickly into production with our first group of films,” Snider and Spielberg said in a joint statement. Reliance BIG Entertainment is part of the Reliance group controlled by billionaire Ambani. “Our partnership with Stacey and Steven is the cornerstone of our Hollywood strategy as we grow our film interests across the globe,” Ambani said. “Given our faith in the business plan that they presented to us and despite the current economic climate, we were always confident that this day would come. Now Stacey and Steven can focus on producing more of the great films for which they are renowned.” Ambani, whose company owns hundreds of theater screens across South Asia, has also invested development money this year with other Hollywood production companies, including those owned by actors Nicolas Cage, Tom Hanks, George Clooney and Jim Carrey. A DreamWorks announcement said that J.P. Morgan brought together the syndicate of banks to provide about $325 million in funding. The banks include Bank of America, City National Bank, Wells Fargo, Comerica, Union Bank of California, SunTrust, California Bank & Trust, and Israel Discount Bank. One of the first movies to go into production will be “Harvey,” an adaptation of the play that won a Pulitzer for playwright Mary Chase. The tale about a man and his invisible bunny friend was first made into a movie, starring Jimmy Stewart, in 1950. Spielberg’s long career as a screenwriter, director and producer has included classic blockbusters “E.T.: The Extraterrestrial,” the “Indiana Jones” series and “Saving Private Ryan.”