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DreamWorks Animation facing its first-ever international underperformance

July 27, 2009 |  5:42 pm

MvA

When DreamWorks Animation reports its second quarter earnings tomorrow afternoon, Jeffrey Katzenberg may have to answer questions about a problem his company has never faced before: international underperformance.

The studio's March release "Monsters vs. Aliens" sold a healthy $198 million worth of tickets in the U.S. and Canada, but only $179 million worth of tickets overseas. It's the first time that a DreamWorks Animation picture has earned less money at the box office in foreign countries than domestically, according to data from BoxOfficeMojo.com.

Animated films are usually more popular in foreign countries than in the U.S. and Canada. Fox's "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs," for instance, has made $505 million overseas and $171 million stateside. Prior to "Monsters vs. Aliens," DreamWorks Animation pictures on average earned 66% more from international ticket sales than domestic.

It's not entirely clear why "Monsters vs. Aliens" broke that trend, although digital 3-D likely played a role. Screens equipped with the new technology typically charge $2 to $3 more per ticket. Currently there are many more 3-D screens deployed domestically than in foreign theaters. It may also be that the satire of '50s monster movies didn't resonate as much with international audiences as it did Americans.

Nonetheless, it's a surprising flip for Katzenberg, whose company has previously relied disproportionately on overseas moviegoers. At least one analyst is already picking up on the issue. Wedbush Morgan Securities last week lowered its estimates for DreamWorks Animation earnings because "international performance [for 'Monsters vs Aliens'] has lagged our expectations."

-- Ben Fritz

Photo: "Monsters vs. Aliens." Credit: DreamWorks Animation.

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