DreamWorks shares drop ahead of 'Turbo' snail movie debut

LOS ANGELES Tue Jul 16, 2013 4:18pm EDT

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Shares of DreamWorks Animation SKG (DWA.O) fell 6 percent on Tuesday as industry projections suggested its new movie, "Turbo," the story of a super-fast snail, could open at a slower pace than many of the studio's recent hits.

"Turbo," featuring the voice of Ryan Reynolds as a garden snail with dreams of entering the Indianapolis 500, could take in less than $35 million during its first weekend in U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to box office forecasters. The movie premieres in theaters on Wednesday.

Only two of 11 DreamWorks movies since 2008 debuted below that mark, according to the Box Office Mojo website.

Shares of DreamWorks, producer of the blockbuster "Shrek" and "Kung Fu Panda" movies, closed down 6 percent on Tuesday to $25.04 on Nasdaq.

Concern about "Turbo's" performance weighed on DreamWorks shares, according to BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield. The film "certainly looks set to be a disappointment," he said.

Chris Petrikin, a spokesman for 20th Century Fox (FOXA.O), the studio that is distributing "Turbo," said the company sees significant growth in interest among family audiences, based on its surveys. Fox is optimistic the movie will perform well for an original title that doesn't have the built-in fan base of a sequel, he said.

This year's crop of summer films have proven stubbornly difficult for Hollywood forecasters to predict. Films like "The Lone Ranger" and "White House Down" started lower than forecast, while Brad Pitt's "World War Z" opened significantly above predictions.

Animated blockbuster "Despicable Me 2" brought in $83 million during its first weekend, $3 million more than its highest pre-opening forecasts.

The continued strength of "Despicable Me 2" and the July 31 opening on family-oriented "The Smurfs 2," pose a challenge for "Turbo," Phil Contrino, chief analyst with Boxoffice.com, said on Tuesday.

"Being sandwiched in between two established brands, it's not an easy thing," said Contrino, who predicts "Turbo" will take in $19 million from Friday through Sunday, reaching $28 million with Wednesday and Thursday sales.

Other box office analysts were more bullish, projecting domestic ticket sales will reach $30 million over the three-day weekend period and top $40 million over the first five days.

In February, DreamWorks announced it took an $87 million writedown for holiday-themed "Rise of the Guardians," which opened with $23.8 million in November. The company rebounded after the March release of "The Croods" took in $43.6 million in its first weekend, going on to become a hit with plans for a sequel.

Jeff Bock, box office analyst for Exhibitor Relations Co, believes "Turbo" will bring in healthy business in the weeks after it premieres, luring family crowds that do not usually rush to theaters on opening weekend.

"There is plenty of time for it to build an audience," Bock said. "DreamWorks has a proven track record for doing that."

(Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Ronald Grover)

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