Spyglass Entertainment and DreamWorks Pictures announced today (Dec 9) that they have signed an exclusive first-look, non-exclusive production deal. The two parties are already in production on Seabiscuit starring Jeff Bridges and Tobey Maguire, which chronicles the life of the legendary racehorse. Gary Ross is directing the currently-shooting picture which has been slated for domestic release in summer 2003 through Universal. Spyglass will handle most of the international distributon with DreamWorks assuming the remainder.

The announcement effectively brings to an end Spyglass' relationship with Disney, where it has made its home ever since co-chairmen Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum founded the company in the summer of 1998. Disney was then under the aegis of Barber's old Morgan Creek partner Joe Roth. Spyglass quickly established itself as a player, independently financing pictures which would be distributed by Disney domestically - and by BVI in many foreign territories. To kickstart the company, Disney brought Spyglass into Jon Turteltaub's Instinct and The Sixth Sense, the film which would go onto gross $661m worldwide and give Spyglass instant credibility. Through Barber, one of the architects of the independent film financing model when he was at Morgan Creek with Roth in the 1980s, Spyglass struck international partnerships with KirchMedia, Svensk, Toho-Towa and Pony Canyon among other players.

Spyglass has been actively seeking new partnerships since KirchMedia started to unravel last year; however, a proposed merger with Intermedia earlier this year fell through.

Barber told Screendaily today (Dec 9) that under the terms of the deal Spyglass will pitch to DreamWorks first but will be entitled to approach other production partners on those projects where the studio passes. DreamWorks will handle the majority of US distribution and will also look after Korea, Scandinavia and the Benelux markets through UIP. Barber added that significant international distribution deals will be announced over the next four to five weeks. The deal with KirchMedia will still honour three or four titles for theatrical release in Germany and free TV broadcast in Italy. Distribution pacts with Lusomundo in Portugal, Forum in Israel and Pony Canyon in Japan (video rights only) are still active.

Other upcoming Spyglass pictures include the action-comedy Shanghai Noon and the adventure adaptation The Count Of Monte Cristo. Upcoming Spyglass titles include Shanghai Noon sequel Shanghai Knights with Owen Wilson and Jackie Chan for Disney; the action-drama The Recruit, starring Al Pacino and Colin Farrell, also at Disney; and the Jim Carrey and Jennifer Aniston comedy Bruce Almighty for Universal.

Since The Sixth Sense, Spyglass has produced Shanghai Noon, The Count Of Monte Cristo, Reign Of Fire, Keeping The Faith, Abandon, Dragonfly and Out Cold among others.