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Steven Spielberg Returns to His “Ancestral Studio Home” at Universal as Amblin Signs New Overall Deal (Updated)

Update: Amblin is cutting 20 percent of its approximately 100-person staff, with those affected largely hailing from the company’s marketing, international, and post-production departments.

Steven Spielberg is returning to his “ancestral studio home” at Universal Pictures, as his company Amblin Partners has signed a new multi-year overall deal with the studio that changes the terms of their partnership.

The new deal calls for Universal to get a first look at all Amblin movies and finance them on a case-by-case basis, as Amblin will no longer fully finance its own films, which it has in the past. Universal would then have the opportunity to release those films and pay Amblin a distribution fee.

Amblin will continue to operate independently, and the company will have greater creative and financial flexibility under the terms of the new deal, which was signed as Hollywood finds itself grappling with a larger sea change.

Spielberg will continue making movies for other studios, and though he hasn’t settled on his next picture, he has been developing a new take on Bullitt for Warner Bros., with Bradley Cooper slated to star. He recently directed Ready Player One for Warners and he’s a producer on the studio’s upcoming musical reboot of The Color Purple.

“Universal is my ancestral studio home, and this next chapter in our longstanding partnership will provide Amblin with the creative flexibility and autonomy that I know will allow us to succeed together in the future,” Spielberg said in a statement. “I’m eternally grateful to our entire team at Amblin for their work and dedication over the years, and also thankful to Donna [Langley] and everyone at Universal for their commitment and partnership, as we all look forward to our next adventure together.”

“We’re excited to evolve our partnership with Steven and cement our creative legacy together that has resulted in so many iconic Universal films over the last half-century,” Langley added in a statement of her own. “Steven and the team at Amblin have been outstanding partners, and we look forward to this next chapter.”

Though having Spielberg based on the lot is certainly a coup for Universal, Amblin’s recent movies have disappointed at the box office, from Spielberg’s own biographical effort The Fabelmans to another adult drama, Damien Chazelle‘s Neil Armstrong movie First Man starring Ryan Gosling. On the other hand, Green Book grossed $321 million worldwide en route to winning Best Picture, so I don’t think the audience for adult dramas has disappeared entirely. Perhaps they’ve just migrated to streaming.

To that end, Amblin will maintain its film partnership with Netflix, and it will continue to produce TV shows, with more than a dozen series either on the air or currently streaming.

Amblin’s new arrangement with Universal will mean a handful of job cuts, so expect some layoffs at Amblin, which may not renew some contracts, although it’s unclear which departments are most likely to be affected. Stay tuned…

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