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DreamWorks Calls For Auditions

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Incumbent Focus Media's Star May Have Fallen From Grace
LOS ANGELES--After a disagreement with its current media buyer DreamWorks SKG has invited a number of agencies and media buying companies around the country to pitch its estimated $85 million ad account, sources said. The studio is gearing up to co-release one of summer's most anticipated films.
DreamWorks decided to look beyond incumbent shop Focus Media after a recent series of discussions where the agency and client clashed over some proposed media plans for this fall, said sources. DreamWorks then proceeded to contact other shops to make presentations.
Focus in Santa Monica, Calif., which won a review last year to become DreamWorks' first media buying shop, has been invited to defend the business, said sources.
Other agencies contacted include GSD&M, Austin, Texas; KSL Media, Los Angeles; SFM Media, both in Los Angeles and New York; Carat ICG and Carat MBS in Los Angeles and New York; TN Media in New York and other undisclosed agencies, said sources.
Tom Rubin, chairman and chief executive of Focus, declined comment, as did executives at DreamWorks in Universal City, Calif.
DreamWorks co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg is expected to play a role in the decision-making process, said sources.
The contenders are scheduled to meet with studio executives this week and next, according to sources, to pitch media planning and buying duties for both theatrical releases and home videos.
The 4-year-old DreamWorks, founded with great fanfare by entertainment moguls Steven Spielberg, David Geffen and Katzenberg, spent about $60 million on ads last year, a small figure because its first release came out at the end of 1997. Sony Pictures spent $250 million and Universal Pictures spent $140 million, per Competitive Media Reporting.
This year marks the fledgling studio's first full film slate, including this week's co-release of the Tom Hanks film Saving Private Ryan. With other features, including Spielberg's animated musical Prince of Egypt, due this fall, ad spending is expected to grow substantially.
Despite its marquee names, DreamWorks has met with only moderate success. Its first two features
--The Peacemaker and Amistad--broke even, while MouseHunt and Paulie posted modest profits.
Small Soldiers, whose action figures take over a town, took in a respectable $14.4 million in its opening weekend. --with staff reports