Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Jeffrey K. Speaks

There was a DreamWorks Animation phone conference with stock analysts, went like this:

... How to Train Your Dragon 2 is already the 9th highest grossing movie of the year so far on a global basis, with a number of major territories yet to go and will be a highly profitable film for the company. Today, it has opened as #1 in 33 territories, and it continues to perform very well in many countries around the world. Dragon 2 was released to Germany just a few days ago, where its opening weekend was by far the best of any family film yet this year.

Up next for us is The Penguins of Madagascar. As we discussed on the last earnings call, a key area of focus for us is making sure that we have the right release window for every one of our movies. An example of this was our decision, 2 months ago, to switch the release dates for Penguins and Home. Because the Penguins movie is a big broad comedy featuring some of the best-known characters from one of our most successful franchises, we think it has a big opportunity to stand out during this year's Thanksgiving timeframe.

Just last week, in San Diego, we screened 20 minutes of Penguins footage for the Comic-Con crowd, which Mashable reported, "It played extremely well in the room, with big laughs at almost every beat." ...

Mr. Katzenberg, like any good CEO, is accentuating the positive.

And there are positives. Dragons 2 will turn a nice profit (though I'm sure there was hope that the profits would be fatter, but lousy box office summers will break your heart every time). The TV division is cranking into high gear and the hours of cartoons now schussing down the log flume will be money spinners for years to come. And Awesome TV will add to the bottom line, as will toys, games and other knick knacks.

But of course, all these things take time. And as one DreamWorker said to me away from the studio:

"The company needs to get the costs of features down. Management doesn't seem to want to restructure at the top and upper middle very much, which is where it would help a lot. Production is supposed to squeeze and cut. I'm not sure how well that will work. ..."

And Jeffrey speaks to that issue:

.. We are also exploring the opportunities of actually making some films -- some original films on a very different scale altogether, where it's not incremental changes in the film cost, but the concepts of the movies and the style with which we would make them would have us working on a very different business model. ...

So will DreamWorks Animation return to profitability in the next quarter? My crystal ball is cloudy, but Mr. K. is a smart businessman. So there's a reasonable chance that the charts will turn up again.


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