Universal buys minority stake in Steven Spielberg's Amblin Partners

Universal buys minority stake in Steven Spielberg's Amblin Partners
Emily Blunt in the movie "The Girl on the Train," from Universal Pictures and Amblin Partner (DreamWorks Pictures)

Universal Pictures is doubling down on its longstanding relationship with filmmaker Steven Spielberg.

The Comcast Corp.-owned entertainment company said Wednesday it will acquire a minority stake in the director’s production house Amblin Partners, deepening its existing partnership with the renowned filmmaker behind such movies as “Jaws,” “Jurassic Park” and “E.T.” Financial terms were not disclosed. 

As part of the agreement, Universal's Chairman Jeff Shell will take a seat on the Amblin board.

The pact comes more than a year after Spielberg returned to his longtime production home at Universal Pictures, where he cemented his status as an up-and-coming producer at Universal in the 1970s with "Jaws," and later "E.T."

Universal agreed to distribute and market films produced by Amblin Partners, the company formerly known as DreamWorks SKG that previously had a distribution deal with the Walt Disney Co.

Universal is the latest to join Amblin's lineup of investors after the company launched in late 2015 with $300 million in financing from companies including Participant Media, Reliance Entertainment and Entertainment One. Participant provided the biggest chunk of that funding.

In October, Alibaba Pictures, the film arm of Jack Ma’s Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, agreed to invest in Amblin in a deal that lets the two co-produce movies and could boost Amblin’s marketing clout in the growing Chinese entertainment market. 

While Spielberg remains one of the most respected directors in Hollywood, Amblin has had a mixed track record recently.

Last year, Universal released the company's Emily Blunt thriller "The Girl on The Train," which collected a solid $175 million at the worldwide box office. But it has also weathered flops like "The BFG" and "The Light Between Oceans," both released by Disney. The company's second Universal Pictures release, "A Dog's Purpose," was hit with accusations of animal rights abuses that were later debunked by the American Humane Assn.

Amblin’s next movie “Ghost in the Shell” will be released by Paramount Pictures this year. The company also has the Warner Bros. sci-fi novel adaptation “Ready Player One,” directed by Spielberg, set for 2018.   

Universal has been investing in film brands to compete with Disney, including "Minions" producer Illumination Entertainment. It paid $3.8 billion last year for DreamWorks Animation, the "Shrek" and "Madagascar" studio that is separate from Spielberg's DreamWorks venture.

"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 chair Donna Langley, in a joint statement.