Bigger release schedule boosts bottomline

DreamWorks Animation’s expanded release schedule of three toons this year is boosting its bottom line.

Although profits dipped 6.2% to $24 million during the second quarter versus the same period a year ago, revenue rose a robust 20% to $158 million.

That was driven mostly by recent pics “How to Train Your Dragon” and “Shrek Forever After,” which have earned a strong $480 million and $603 million, respectively, at the box office, helping the company pass the $1 billion mark in worldwide sales this year.

“This year will be the biggest ever for a CG animation studio in the history of Hollywood,” DWA-topper Jeffrey Katzenberg told analysts during a conference call.

“Shrek Forever After” is on its way to become DreamWorks Animation’s third highest-grossing film ever. The company, which is releasing three pics in one year for the first time, will unspool the superhero comedy “Megamind” on Nov. 5.

The studio made the trek to San Diego’s Comic-Con last week to tubtump the pic. It was the first time the company has promoted a film there because “we’ve perceived our customer to be younger than the Comic-Con group,” said DreamWorks chief financial officer Lew Coleman, adding that animated features have matured to the point where the company is telling “more sophisticated stories that appeal to a broader audience.”

Although the company warned that its earnings would take a hit because of the lack of a major homevideo title during the period and a less-than-expected B.O. haul from the latest “Shrek,” the toon has been making up any disappointments Stateside with a strong showing overseas.

But the company has seen quarterly expenses increase — to $99 million from $74 million last year — as it readies to launch new ventures like “Kung Fu Panda World,” an online world for fans of the film.

Individually, “Dragon” lassoed up $33.4 million during the period, while “Shrek” earned nearly $52 million. The studio’s sole release last year, “Monsters vs. Aliens,” earned $17 million, mostly from international pay TV sales.

Overall, DWA’s animation library pumped out nearly $49 million during the quarter.

While it has been reported that some studios are seeing the percentage of box office revenues from 3D movies decline this summer, Katzenberg said that is not the case at DreamWorks, where its films have consistently seen 60-plus percent from 3D offerings. “We see this as a fresh, new, vibrant marketplace,” said Katzenberg, who is among Hollywood’s biggest cheerleaders for the technology. He added that the 3D revenue declines at other studios may be due to a scarcity of 3D screens in theaters.

(Tom Lowry contributed to this report).

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