DreamWorks Animation shares are down 3.1% to $17.49 in jumpy pre-market trading this morning after Rise Of The Guardians‘ $32.6M domestic box office for the five-day Thanksgiving holiday made it, in Janney Capital Markets’ Tony Wible’s words, “one of the most disappointing releases in the company’s history.” If the pre-market stock price holds, then DreamWorks Animation would be down nearly 24% from November 2 when it hit a 52-week high of $22.98 — partly driven by analysts’ optimistic expectations for Guardians. Wible expected to see $55M over Thanksgiving, slightly less than the consensus forecast among analysts for $58M. He now predicts it will generate $134M domestically (down from his earlier forecast for $225M) and $312M internationally (down from $338M). He also cut his earnings-per-share estimates for the company by 71% to 25 cents for 2012, and by 9% to 79 cents for 2013, although he maintained his “buy” recommendation based on DWA’s other initiatives. “Parent review sites noted several dark moments, which may have kept younger viewers away” from Guardians, he says. “However, we still struggle to understand why audiences rejected the film.”
Others also are rejiggering their spreadsheets for DreamWorks. Lazard Capital Markets’ Barton Crockett says this morning that if results in other markets follow the pattern set this weekend, then Guardians could generate a $15M loss instead of a $39M profit — which would lead him to slash his 2013 EPS forecast by nearly 53% to 72 cents. He anticipates a domestic box office of $146M, down from his earlier projection of $176M. Overseas sales likely won’t bail the movie out. In Russia, the film’s biggest international market so far, Crockett says Guardians generated $5.9M in its opening weekend — lower than Puss in Boots’ $14.9M opening in Russia, How to Train Your Dragon’s $7.3M, and Megamind’s $6.9M.
Susquehanna Financial Group’s Vasily Karasyov says that overseas ticket buyers will have to spend at least $235M on Guardians to keep it from ending up in the red — which he says is still possible if the film matches the performance of Disney’s Tangled, which opened the same weekend in 2010. But even if Guardians eeks out a profit, the disappointing performance may scar DreamWorks which wants to produce more than two major releases a year. For investors to see that as a positive, “they need to have confidence in the fact that incremental titles will be profitable, which we think it harder after last weekend,” Karasyov says.
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