The Boston Herald has an interesting piece up speculating on whether Paramount execs had planned to end their spendy relationship with Cruise and his production partner, Paula Wagner, to make room for Steven Spielberg since Paramount's acquisition of Dreamworks SKG nine months ago. Brett Arends, writing for the Herald, points out that in a conversation with Par stockholders and Wall Street analysts last December, Viacom chair Sumner Redstone and other execs noted that the acquisition of Dreamworks meant that Dreamworks (and, presumably Spielberg) would be taking over 4-6 slots out of the 14-16 films Paramount puts out per year. Tom Feston, chief operating officer at the time, had emphasized that Dreamworks would be taking slots in Par's existing slate -- which, as Arends notes in his piece via a quote from a Wall Street analyst, indicated that Paramount had already decided then that they would have to get rid of some production relationships to make room.

It's an interesting take on the much ballyhooed C/W-Paramount split, especially in light of Spielberg saying that he was "shocked" to learn of Cruise's departure. Given that Cruise reportedly will make more off of Mission: Impossible: 3 than the prodco, though, one has wonder if the split was inevitable anyhow, regardless of Redstone's talk about Cruise's off-screen antics being to blame, and if the Dreamworks buy just accelerated the process. It will be interesting to see what Cruise and Wagner do on their own, and who ends up winning the long-term box office battle. ...