DreamWorks Animation 2012 EarningsUPDATE, 2:15 PM: No update on the big question DreamWorks Animation faces: Who will distribute its films beginning next year, when its current deal with Paramount expires? The process to decide that “will begin in June” after Madagascar 3 is out, CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg says. “We anticipate it being concluded no later than Labor Day.” He added that “all options are on the table” including self-distribution — something that Katzenberg says the company is “fully exploring.” The value of any deal DreamWorks makes shouldn’t be judged just by the distribution fee, he says; there could be synergies like the ones DreamWorks has with Nickelodeon.

DreamWorks told analysts that the Madagascar sequel and Rise Of The Guardians, due in November, will cost about $145M apiece to produce, higher than most previous DreamWorks Animation films. But there won’t be as much competition as there was last year. Although consumer spending on animation and family films “expanded, and expanded decently,” Katzenberg says it was “split among a number of films.” Animation is “the single most mainstream, most successful genre in movies today.” But “it looks easier than it is. People come in, they try it and then they go away.” This year “feels like more of a normalized market” — although still competitive as movies such as Hangover 2 become seen as family films. Katzenberg says that the new Madagascar is the best of the three in the series, and will be “the first time audiences will get to experience this franchise in 3D.”

PREVIOUS, 1:09 PM: The quarter may not account for much — the company’s earnings this year largely will depend on how well Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted will do beginning June 8. Still, the results should satisfy some investors. DreamWorks generated net income of $9.1M, up 3.2% vs the same period last year, on revenues of $136.1M, up about 26%. Analysts expected revenues of about $133.5M. Earnings at 11 cents a share also beat the 9 cents that company watchers forecast. DreamWorks says that Puss contributed $73.6M, mostly from home video and overseas sales. Kung Fu Panda 2 videos added $14.1M. Megamind delivered $5M and Shrek Forever After kicked in $2.5M. The cat must have gotten CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg’s tongue for the usual chief executive quote in the company’s press release: He simply said that Puss was mostly responsible for the Q1 results and “we look forward to releasing the third chapter of our blockbuster Madagascar franchise.” DreamWorks shares, which gained about 2% during the trading day, rose about 3% in after market trading.