Universal and DreamWorks have signed a seven-year worldwide distribution deal in a much anticipated move that is understood to cover up to six films a year commencing sometime in 2009.

Speculation had been rife in recent weeks as to which studio would distribute the DreamWorks slate following the recent departure from the Paramount fold by DreamWorks co-founder Steven Spielberg and studio chief Stacey Snider.

Paramount had distributed the DreamWorks slate after it acquired the studio back in 2006 and the former remains contractually obliged to distribute certain upcoming DreamWorks titles including Transformers 2. DreamWorks is taking 15-17 projects with it that Paramount still has the option to co-finance.

Ever since DreamWorks struck a financing deal backed by Indian giant Reliance that enabled Spielberg and Snider to operate under a kind of autonomy, the question has been who would fulfil distribution duties.

Fox and Disney has been mooted as contenders, however Universal was always the frontrunner given Spielberg's longstanding relationship with the studio. During the turbulent years at Paramount, Spielberg kept his DreamWorks production offices on the Universal lot. The distribution deal was signed early on Monday morning [October 13] following weeks of talks. Universal will receive an 8% distribution fee. Reliance Big Entertainment will distribute the new company's projects in India.

'We couldn't be more pleased to welcome the DreamWorks team back to Universal and our long history of success together will continue,' Universal president and COO Ron Meyer said. 'As always, it is an honour to do business with Steven Spielberg, one of the most prolific directors of our generation and our long-time friend and colleague Stacey Snider, who is one of the finest film executives in our business.'

'While it feels great to come home again, it feels like I never left, and Stacey and I look forward to working once again with our friends and colleagues, old and new,' Spielberg said. He paid tribute to DreamWorks co-founder David Geffen, who negotiated the deal on behalf of the new-look DreamWorks and as previously reported is exiting the film business.

'David Geffen has been my partner for 14 years, my advisor for 30 and will be my friend for life,' Spielberg said. 'DreamWorks will have a second chapter because of David's vision and indomitable spirit.'

'Having spent a decade in the Universal family, I'm very familiar with their talented distribution and marketing teams, under the dynamic leadership of Marc Shmuger and David Linde,' Snider said. 'Steven and I are looking forward to this new association with our old friends. Steven and I could not be embarking upon this new adventure were it not for the brilliance, dedication and loyalty of David Geffen. I am forever grateful.'