DreamWorks puts hope in sequels

DreamWorks Animation is counting on a panda bear to lift financial results for the Glendale-based studio in 2011, with a new “Kung Fu Panda” film and TV show debuting later this year.

Chief Executive Jeffrey Katzenberg told entertainment industry analysts in a conference call on Tuesday that animated family films are about the only bright spot for the movie industry today, and that DreamWorks is in a good position to capture worldwide audiences in the coming years with sequels to “Panda” and “How to Train Your Dragon.”

“Animated movies have been the most successful thing going on in the marketplace, but it has been a lousy marketplace,” Katzenberg said.

The company announced that it earned $8.8 million in income on revenues of $108 million in what Katzenberg called a “quiet” first quarter since the company had no theatrical releases. The results met Wall Street expectations.

In the same period last year, the company earned nearly $22 million on $162 million in revenues.

“Without a theatrical release, first quarter results were driven by last year’s titles,” said Chief Financial Officer Lewis Coleman.

Home video sales of “Shrek Forever After” brought in nearly $20 million in the quarter, Coleman said. That outpaced “Megamind,” a box office disappointment in November that earned $18.1 million in its first quarter in the home video market.

DreamWorks’ first release of the year will be “Kung Fu Panda 2” in May. It is also developing a “Panda” television show to air on Nickelodeon in the fall.

Asked about digital delivery of movies and the role of Netflix in challenging traditional film distributors, Katzenberg said rapidly evolving consumer habits and studio strategies make it hard to guess where the industry will go.

“We think it is going to stay in this unsettled state for the foreseeable future, meaning the next 12 or 18 months,” he said. “We don’t see a clear set of winners and losers yet.”

Netflix, while it has gouged a hole in home video profits, ultimately will prove a net win for content providers, he said.

“It has put another buyer into the marketplace, and a very aggressive one,” Katzenberg said.

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