Reading the news, blogs and opinions, you would think that DreamWorks Animation was dead and truly buried, or at least preparing for a visit to the morgue. Sensationalism on the part of the media has naturally played a part; even the prospect of blood has them circling the hypothetical corporate corpse.
Nothing could be further from the truth however; DWA remains in business, and in any case, HTTYD 2 has barely even begun its (hopefully) long commercial life. So it didn't make a profit on the first weekend. Is that really the end of the world? The first film didn't either and it ended up doing just fine with a healthy domestic gross supplemented by similarly robust international figures.
There was much less gruff about the first film wasn't there? While that film did have the ability to boast of being number one at the box office, the real talk centered on the fact that it performed below the previous DreamWorks film, Aliens Vs. Monsters and that it did so despite the massive marketing effort from the studio proved the film itself was somewhat lacking. As an interesting side-note, a healthy chunk of Box Office Mojo's discussion is about 3-D ticket sales. Remember when those were the future?
We all know how things turned out in the end; word of mouth suddenly proved to be a rather influential marketing tool that almost certainly saved the pride of the film and its studio. Prospects seemed to turn around overnight, with not one, not two but three Dragons sequels announced not long afterward.
That was 2010 though; an age in the entertainment business. The 2014 film not only had higher expectations to meet from the audience, but also from just about everyone else with a piece of the pie. That means the toy licensees, investors, distributor FOX, and or course, the studio itself. Clearly plenty of those people are feeling a bit disappointed about now, but it isn't the end of the world; far from it.
Which means it's all the more dishearting to read headlines like: “DreamWorks Crushed On 'How To Train Your Dragon 2' Disappointment”. I'll spare you the ones from the Wall St sites. Could the films have performed better? Absolutely! Yet the reaction to such underperformance has certainly ramped up since the more significant $83 million the studio was forced to write down from Rise of the Guardians in early 2013 and the layoffs that followed. That film continues to cast a bit of a shadow over the studio but the effects will have been shrugged off by now and in any case, there's diversity afoot!
You'd have to be blind not to notice that DreamWorks has been busy diversifying as of late. They've snapped up AwesomnessTV, launched their own YouTube channel and and have been one of the more voracious of the larger producers to partner with Netflix on original content.
All this means that DreamWorks isn't just in robust financial health, but also on a more solid footing when it comes to creative sources. Their reliance on features and all the risks that entails became all to obvious after Rise of the Guardians, so they did the sensible thing and set out to reduce that risk.
So How to Train Your Dragon 2 didn't quite pop the champagne the same way as the first one. So what? They'll weather the storm and continue on their merry way; there's nothing to worry about.