DreamWorks Animation now has what every movie studio wants: it can get away with releasing movies that are not huge hits.
Studios can even make money off of their weaker-performing titles. At least that’s the message from a recent report by Janney Montgomery Scott analyst Tony Wible.
Advanced research indicates the animation studio’s next movie, “Mr. Peabody and Sherman,” featuring the voices of Ty Burrell, Leslie Mann and Stephen Colbert, will be its second film in a row to underperform at the box office — “Turbo” being the first. The upcoming movie based on characters from a 1960s TV show should gross between $25 and $30 million during its opening weekend for Fox, which is releasing the film, according to Wible.
Tracking based on Google search and social media indicates the movie will do better than previously expected, but even the revised numbers suggest a domestic total of $98 million. That is a low figure when compared to most of the company’s other movies, like the original “Shrek” ($267.7 million) and “How to Train Your Dragon” ($217.6 million), and even its more recent successes such as ‘The Croods.” ...
Netflix has acknowledged – the “Turbo” series with Netflix has been a huge success. The streaming service, which never discloses ratings, said it was “one of the most popular kids series ever on Netflix.” That helped make “Turbo” a success even though it wasn’t at the box office. ...
Until eighteen to twenty-four months ago, DreamWorks Animation had an interesting business model.
Make an animated movie, release said movie, have it be a huge hit. Rinse, repeat. (And, at the same time, work on an array of other animated movies.)
This is, as financial analysts might say, Un. Su. Stainable.
So around the time that The Guardians didn't perform up to expectations (and probably earlier) the company began doing what Walt Disney Productions did in the early 1950s. It started seriously diversifying.
DWA got into television and internet programming and distribution in a serious way. It partnered with China. It got into the amusement park biz. It bought up companies with exploitable assets (i.e., a plethora of cartoon characters). It wouldn't surprise me if, in the future, the company got into live-action and live-action/animation hybrids.
Jeffrey Katzenberg, in short, has learned the same lesson that Walter E. Disney learned sixty years ago. The chances of a cartoon company surviving by making only theatrical cartoons are a lot smaller than a cartoon company that diversifies into newer media and other parts of the entertainment biz.