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Jeffrey Katzenberg on What Went Wrong With ‘Turbo’

The DreamWorks Animation chief attributes poor performance to larger crop of animated titles and 'a bad date'

DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg is pretty frank on why “Turbo” hasn’t performed well in domestic theaters since its release July 17: “It was a bad date.”

“The film’s soft opening was a clear result of an oversaturated marketplace and difficult release date,” he said during a conference call with analysts and Wall Street to discuss the company’s strong second quarter results, thanks mostly to the success of “The Croods.”

Katzenberg called this summer an unprecedented one with a larger-than-usual number of animated titles competing for attention from kids and families — including Disney’s “Monsters University” and “Planes,” Universal and Illumination Entertainment’s “Despicable Me 2,” Sony’s “The Smurfs 2” and Fox’s “Epic” — around 50% more than last year during the same frame. It had considered an earlier release, but the subject matter of “Turbo” — about a racing snail — would have gone up against “Fast & Furious 6,” which the toon’s marketing materials reference.

“We had an unprecedented jam up of animation releases,” Katzenberg told Variety. “We’ve never had anything remotely like this before. We don’t see this again for several years, if we see it at all.”

SEE ALSO: ‘The Croods’ Rocks DreamWorks Animation’s Second Quarter Results

Still DreamWorks believes “Turbo” “will be a profitable film for us,” Katzenberg said. “It’s a hit everywhere in the world, except for one territory (the U.S.).”

Despite its snail-paced opening Stateside, the $127 million-budgeted “Turbo” “is off to an excellent start overseas,” earning more than $42 million so far, with major territories still set to open. The film, released by 20th Century Fox, has earned just $60 million from domestic theaters.

DreamWorks Animation also is looking at other revenue sources that will prop up “Turbo.”

Toys tied to the film have “outperformed expectations,” according to Ann Daly, DreamWorks’ chief operating officer. The film will also get spun off into an animated TV series for Netflix, which should “develop continued interest in the property which can drive sales,” Daly said.

During the call with analysts, Katzenberg defended “Turbo,” saying that the film’s been considered a disappointment because its pics typically earn within the $150 million to $250 million range. “In the real world, a movie that’s in the vicinity of $100 million is still considered a hit,” he said. “The beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.”

Toon studio spent 20% less on “Turbo” than another recent disappointment, “Rise of the Guardians,” the company said.

“It’s been tough because ‘Turbo’ was loved and beloved,” Katzenberg said, generating a rare A+ CinemaScore with kids. “This is a movie that played great for its audience but we were never able to get the attention and traction of (that) audience coming so quickly after two blockbuster sequel animated titles (‘Monsters University’ and ‘Despicable Me 2’).”

Moving forward, DreamWorks said it has a clearer focus of what 2014 and 2015 look like, and that its “Mr. Peabody & Sherman,” “How to Train Your Dragon” sequel, “Home,” “The Penguins of Madagascar,” “B.O.O.: Bureau of Otherworldly Operations” and “Kung Fu Panda 3” are “well-positioned.”

There still is a possibility that DreamWorks Animation could face another perfect storm of releases in summer 2015 — when a growing line up of high-profile sequels are expected to blitz megaplexes.

DreamWorks Animation has skedded “B.O.O.” for June 5th, 2015, but Katzenberg believes the film will serve as counterprogramming to live action tentpoles like Marvel’s “The Avengers: Age of Ultron,” out in May, and Fox’s “Assassin’s Creed,” after “B.O.O.’s” release. Pixar’s “Inside Out” also bows in June.

“We think we’ve programmed something that is counter to all of those movies,” Katzenberg said. “It’s a big fun ghost comedy with Melissa McCarthy and Seth Rogen. We are very conscious of what’s coming and in the face of that, we feel we have a very good release date.”

Still Katzenberg cautions that the company will “have to keep our eyes” on how that summer’s release schedule. “It’s going to be a massively competitive summer.”

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