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DreamWorks Animation predicts fire breathing year in 2010

December 2, 2009 |  7:14 pm


Never bashful about his company's prospects, DreamWorks Animation SKG Chief Executive Jeffrey Katzenberg told analysts and investors that next year would be the "biggest in the company's history."

Speaking at a conference at the company's Glendale headquarters, Katzenberg touted eight upcoming computer-animated movies, including three scheduled for release next year.

The studio is gearing up for a massive marketing campaign -- complete with a Winter Olympics promotion -- for "How to Train Your Dragon,"  which is based on the book by Cressida Cowell and scheduled to be released March 26.  Next up is the fourth installment in the Shrek franchise, "Shrek Forever After," on May 21, followed by "Megamind," a superhero story starring Tina Fey and Brad Pitt, on Nov. 5

"We couldn't be more excited about the lineup of films here,'' said Katzenberg, adding that the films will  get a significant boost from 3-D screenings, which command higher ticket prices. Based on a ticket premium of $3.50, the studio estimates 3-D viewings will contribute net revenue of $30 million to $40 million per film. North America has about 3,500 3-D screens, but that number is expected to grow substantially next year as theaters secure financing to pay for the digital conversion of theaters.

Katzenberg and other company executives stressed that the company's growth would come not only from the box office but also from its various non-theatrical businesses, including three new TV series based on its franchise characters, the upcoming nationwide tour of "Shrek the Musical" Broadway show, and a Universal Studios theme park opening in Singapore next year that will feature attractions from DreamWorks movies.

TV specials and series, including the successful "Penguins of Madagascar" TV series on Nickelodeon, which is now distributed in 60 foreign territories, will contribute $40 million to $60 million in revenue next year, said Ann Daly, chief operating officer for DreamWorks Animation.

"Our TV business will be a substantial driver of growth for the years to come,'' Daly said.

Investors apparently liked what they heard.  The company's share price jumped 10%, closing at $37.96, today. Theyre up 68% from a year ago. 

-- Richard Verrier

Photo: Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) befriends Toothless, an injured Night Fury dragon, in DreamWorks Animation's "How to Train Your Dragon," to be released March 26. Credit: DreamWorks Animation SKG