DreamWorks Animation shares are down 2.2% in mid-day trading today after Janney Capital Markets’ Tony Wible reports that indicators he tracks tell conflicting stories about the likely performance of The Croods, out this Friday. The analyst predicts the film will generate $45M this weekend, below analysts’ consensus of about $50M. And his forecast “could be at risk,” he says, because the film “is tracking 19% below [DreamWorks Animation's] average levels.” Wall Streeters are hungry for Croods data: They believe the film will indicate whether the studio just had a garden variety disappointment with Rise Of The Guardians, which resulted in an $87M writedown, or whether it faces a far more serious problem of what some call “franchise fatigue.” Wible says he sees no conclusive pattern across social media and other early indicators. But he adds that, even if the opening is softer than expected, the results could improve. There could be a pick up in the second week if the reviews are strong ahead of the holiday week before Easter. And the studio’s new distributor, News Corp, “may do a much better job than Paramount” overseas. What accounts for his reluctance to predict that Croods will be an unqualified hit? Wible notes that DVR data show a sharp increase in fast-forwarding through the movie’s ads; the rate was 16% higher than Madagascar 3 at a comparable period. The number of Twitter tweets for Croods has been below traffic last year that preceded Fox’s Ice Age: Continental Drift and Universal’s Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, but is way ahead of Guardians and Mad 3. And theater owners say that early ticket sales are “not noteworthy,” although that may reflect DreamWorks Animation’s plan to keep some of its promotional gunpowder dry until competition from Disney’s Oz: The Great And Powerful fades.
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