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Analyst: ‘Alice’ Really a ‘Dragon’ Slayer

29 Mar, 2010 By: Erik Gruenwedel

How to Train Your Dragon

While the DreamWorks Animation 3D release How to Train Your Dragon easily won the weekend box office with $43.3 million, it failed to match some industry projections due in large part to the clout of ongoing 3D juggernaut Alice in Wonderland, an analyst said.

The Walt Disney Co.’s Alice, from director Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp, has grossed nearly $300 million domestically.

Ralph Schackart, media analyst with William Blair & Co. in Chicago, said competition from Alice, which brought in $17.2 million in ticket revenue in its fourth week of release, and a relatively unknown voice cast in Dragon contributed to the latter film’s lower-than-expected box office.

Indeed, Dragon generated 70% of revenue from 2,178 3D screens, compared with DreamWorks Animation’s Monsters vs. Aliens, which opened a year ago with $59.3 million on 1,550 3D screens.

The burgeoning consumer interest in 3D is driving the consumer electronics industry and Hollywood to replicate the theatrical experience with 3D movies on Blu-ray Disc (such as this month’s Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) playable on 3D televisions.

Schackart said that with Warner Bros.’ Clash of the Titans opening in 3D this weekend, Dragon ticket sales would again suffer.

“We do not think the overall movie quality was the problem as Dragon earned better review scores than Alice and Monsters,” Schackart wrote in a note.

The analyst believes timing of releases undermined Dragon, a factor that should play in favor of DWA’s other 3D release this year, Shrek Forever Ever, which will be released seven weeks after Titans.

Indeed, Shrek will have four weeks with no major 3D competition at the box office until Disney’s Toy Story 3 on June 18.

The 25% increase in 3D ticket prices levied by many theater chains over the weekend apparently had little impact hindering consumer interest in the former gimmicky format.

But the presumed elastic (limited) demand for entertainment did not pan out for Dragon screenings at more expensive Imax theaters, which generated $5 million in box office, 29% below similar screenings for Alice and Avatar, according to Eric Wold, analyst with Merriman Curhan Ford in New York.

“We continue to believe higher ticket premium prices, in general, could negatively impact results of animated films as parents may be less willing to pay the higher prices for a group of children. Or, at a minimum, it could cause a trade down from choosing Imax performances to regular 3D performances,” Wold wrote in a note.


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