DreamWorks Animation signs distribution deal with 20th Century Fox

The boy in the moon is going to have some spotlights on him.

DreamWorks Animation, which is ending its distribution deal with Paramount Pictures, has signed a five year agreement with 20th Century Fox to put out such movies as the caveman comedy The Croods, Mr. Peabody and Sherman, and How to Train Your Dragon 2.

The deal marks the last vestiges of an ill-fated 2005 union between DreamWorks and Paramount, which eventually saw Steven Spielberg and Stacey Snider split-off the live-action part of the studio and leave Paramount to enter a distribution deal with Disney, while Jeffrey Katzenberg maintained DreamWorks Animation as a separate entity.

Nearly four years after Spielberg and Snider broke away, Katzenberg’s movies continued to be distributed by Paramount, but that will end after the Nov. 21 release of Rise of the Guardians, a family adventure film featuring warrior versions of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy.

Paramount has begun ramping up its own animation division, starting with last year’s western comedy Rango, directed by Pirates of the Caribbean filmmaker Gore Verbinski and featuring Johnny Depp as the voice of a timid lizard. An effort to maintain the distribution deal between DreamWorks and Paramount fell apart earlier this month, with Katzenberg saying he was seeking more favorable terms elsewhere, including Sony Pictures, before deciding on Fox.

Katzenberg told reporters Monday that the distribution fee would be the same with Fox as it was with Paramount — 8 percent — while the advantage came in emerging digital markets, where DreamWorks pays a 6 percent fee for video on demand and online distribution.

Fox is currently home to Blue Sky Animation, which produces the Ice Age movies and last year’s Rio, and has Epic and Rio 2 in production. The main complication between the two companies would be a clash over release dates, but Fox co-chairmen and CEOs Jim Gianopulis and Tom Rothman say most of the debuts are already set for the next several years and already have enough distance between them. “It looks to us like a strong lineup and good spacing,” Rothman said in a conference call with reporters.

Katzenberg also said that no potential sequels to their past films distributed through Paramount would be hampered by the move to a different studio.

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