Who's making deals in the week of December 23, 2005 -- The biggest upcoming projects in entertainment

DreamWorks had some winning streaks in its 11-year run, but Paramount’s roughly $1.6 billion acquisition of the company Dec. 11 leaves its uniquely utopian mission unaccomplished. The studio’s finale as a stand-alone company also marks the end of a Hollywood era.

Founded in 1994 by Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and David Geffen, DreamWorks began as a dotcom-like bastion of multimedia hope and hype (no titles for executives! Free food at the cafeteria!), but devolved into primarily a film company after stumbling with TV production, videogames, and music. The upside of the studio’s indie-minded corporate structure — even with S, K, and G operating on a different plane from their staff — was the creative peak of 1998 to 2001, when Saving Private Ryan, American Beauty, Gladiator, and Shrek reaped Oscars and millions at the box office. The downside was a prevailing sense of chaos, leading to erratic judgment and flops like Surviving Christmas and The Island; even Spielberg — who freely directed movies for other studios — struck out for the home team with The Terminal. And while Shrek and its ultra-lucrative sequel helped the animation division to successfully spin off as its own unit in 2004, it had its own share of disappointments with hand-drawn films like Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas.

If the deal is a winner for Paramount — ”We had fallen to the bottom of the ladder, but this quickly jumps Paramount up near the top,” says president of marketing and distribution Rob Moore — it’s not necessarily a loss for the DreamWorks troika. Once absorbed in 2006 by Paramount (whose last-minute bid trumped an increasingly unattractive deal offered by NBC Universal), the DreamWorks brand will remain on some prominent films, with Spielberg and Geffen presiding over a mini-slate of four to six films a year. On the duo’s 2006 schedule: Dreamgirls with Jamie Foxx and Beyoncé Knowles (Christmas 2006), Clint Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers (Aug. 4), and The Last Kiss with Garden State‘s Zach Braff. All of the several dozen other projects DreamWorks has in development will move to the Paramount lot, including Katzenberg’s animated movies (Over the Hedge in ’06, and the Jerry Seinfeld-voiced Bee Movie in ’07), making Paramount a threat to Disney. Says Moore of his new star producers: ”I hope we can give Spielberg and Geffen a stable home where they can make quality movies.”