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‘Turbo’ Torpor Leaves Netflix Defending DreamWorks Animation Deals

Animated film's box office performance factors into two deals between the companies

Netflix isn’t sweating the underwhelming performance from the latest offering at the box office by DreamWorks Animation, which struck a pair of deals with the streaming service beginning in 2011.

While acknowledging that new animated movie “Turbo” opened a “little soft,” Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos stuck up for DWA. “I’m very comfortable with DreamWorks performance at the box office,” he said on the company’s second-quarter earnings call Monday.

Turbo” got off to a slow start this past weekend, earning just $21.5 million in three days, with $31.2 million in five. The toon marks one of the lowest three-day openings for a recent DWA CGI-animated film.

Despite the sluggish numbers, Sarandos explained that box office performance isn’t necessarily a good indicator of how a title will perform on Netflix.

“They translate to high viewing on Netflix, even movies that don’t perform as well at the box office,” he said in response to questions from CNBC reporter Julia Boorstin.

The other DWA title Boorstin brought into question was “The Croods,” which Sarandos countered performed well over its total run. “Croods” finished with $582 million worldwide.

Sarandos also noted that “Turbo” won’t come to Netflix until after the home-video window, which will provide an additional marketing boost to the content that will lift its visibility before arriving on the platform.

“Turbo” is just one of many big-budget titles that will come to Netflix as part of an output deal Netflix secured in 2011 from DWA, which previously had a deal in place with HBO. It was the highest profile such deal of the kind for the company at the time, though it has since seen its value eclipsed by a similar deal with Walt Disney Pictures last year.

But “Turbo” could prove doubly problematic due to a second deal Netflix announced with DWA in June for a slate of original series based on the film company’s intellectual property. Spinoff series “Turbo F.A.S.T” is the first project expected from the deal.

But Sarandos waxed hopeful. “Turbo” had the momentum to transition to a serial. “Iconic characters tend to last a long time ,way beyond opening weekend box office performance,” he said.

Worse come to worse, Sarandos noted that the rate card by which Netflix pays DWA for titles reconfigures how much it pays to license each title based on boxoffice performance.

DreamWorks Animation will report their second-quarter earnings Tuesday.

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