UPDATE, 2:22 PM: I can’t recall when I’ve heard CEO Jeff Katzenberg sound so cheerless on one of his quarterly calls with analysts. But with results that sent DreamWorks Animation shares down about 8% in after-market trading, a more gleeful tone might have made him sound delusional. Still, he gamely pointed to potential catalysts for the company, whose market value is down 28.5% over the last 12 months. He told analysts that in late spring or early summer DreamWorks will begin to “actively pursue” a new distribution deal to replace the one with Paramount that expires this year. The company will make a decision “no later than this fall.” Although it’s still early, Katzenberg says that “we have a number of very good options.” But he added that he probably won’t provide the Street with play-by-play updates. “We don’t think that doing it under the day-to-day microscope of people trying to second guess us is necessarily good for the company.”
The CEO says that his company isn’t entirely to blame for its soft Q4 results. It reflects “challenges for the industry as a whole.” He remains confident that “3D still an outstanding investment.” Katzenberg says that home video sales for Puss In Boots “exceeded our expectations” in its first weekend: It sold about 1.2M units vs 1M in the equivalent period for Megamind. Even so, he says that the video performance of Kung Fu Panda 2, released in mid-December, shows that “the overall home video environment remains challenging.” He talked up the next major movie release, Madagascar 3, saying that he’s “confident it will raise the bar.” But production costs for the film — plus the other 2012 release, Rise Of The Guardians — will be higher than average for DWA. The company says that production costs should return to normal in 2013.
PREVIOUS, 1:13 PM: The Street wasn’t expecting much after seeing the disappointing home video sales for Kung Fu Panda 2. Even so, shares are down in after-market trading following the release of DreamWorks Animation’s Q4 results. The animation company had net income of $24.3M, down 71.5% vs the same period last year, on revenues of nearly $219M, down 20.6%. The revenue figure beat the $207.5M that analysts forecast. But earnings, at 29 cents a share, fell short of the 32 cents that company watchers projected. DreamWorks says that Kung Fu Panda 2 accounted for $49.6M of the revenues, mostly from the sale of 5.1M home videos. Puss In Boots was next, with $23.8M from worldwide box office and sales of licensed merchandise. Megamind added $19.4M mostly from international pay TV. The production pipeline doesn’t appear to have anything that will improve the earnings picture right away. DreamWorks says that its 2012 results largely depend on the performance of Madagascar 3, which will be released on June 8. Results for the current quarter will be driven by overseas ticket sales and the home video performance of Puss In Boots. CEO Jeff Katzenberg says that Panda and Puss “achieved a high level of commercial and critical success” last year — and that Puss is “off to an excellent start in its domestic home video release.”