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Wall Street woes could boost B.O.

Katzenberg: Bad news is big box office

An endless parade of economic woes could steer folks straight to the multiplex, said DreamWorks Animation topper Jeffrey Katzenberg, predicting a pop for his company and others like it as investment banks crumble and markets tumble.

“We have seen that, at worst, our product is recession resistant, and (at best) historically has been up,” he told investors at Goldman Sachs’ Communacopia media conference in Gotham. “The single greatest price/value entertainment (option) is at your local movie theater,” he added, especially “if your brand is consistent, high quality.”

That’s something he said DreamWorks Animation has been working hard at. “In the past we’ve had big hits, but also misses. If you look at our film business going forward I think we’re hitting our stride, seeking consistency.”

The studio boasts three franchises, “Shrek,” Madagascar” and now “Kung Fu Panda.” The pieces may fall into place over the next several weeks for the sequel to Po’s box-office busting adventures. The original is out on video Nov. 9.

Katzenberg reiterated how thrilled he was that “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa,” will have the field to itself when it opens in November 7, after Warner Bros. pushed the next “Harry Potter” pic out to summer. “Nothing that great has ever happened to me before,” he joked.

And he waxed cautiously upbeat on the company’s newest venture, a musical stage version of “Shrek that opens on Broadway this fall after a run in Seattle to mixed reviews. The venture takes DWA deep into rival Disney’s territory.

“We’re drilling where others have, and when they’ve hit, they found gushers,” he said.

“We are cautious and don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, because Broadway does not behave like the movie business,” he added. But, if a show succeeds it has “the value of an original movie, if not several original movies.”

He said the “Shrek the Musical” is being fine-tuned in response to critics, who were often “spot on.”

“I think we’ve got a tiger by the tail. I think we’ve got it, but there’s a lot of work to do”

Shrek merchandising in Seattle, he noted, “has exceeded every expectation.”

Another passion is 3D. “I believe it’s the change our industry has been looking for,” Katzenberg said. He predicted a rapid rollout of screens from 2,500 to 3,000 when DWA’s 3D pic “Monsters vs. Aliens” comes out – to 6,000 screens by the time “Shrek Goes Fourth” rolls around over a year later.

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