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Contrary to Popular Belief, Hiccup and Toothless Have Not Killed DreamWorks

Box Office
by Charles Kenny
June 26, 2014 2:15 PM
17 Comments
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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.

17 Comments

  • Miles | July 4, 2014 10:59 PMReply

    I think that the World Cup is one reason HtTYD2 is falling behind, once it ends I think the box office will surge forward. Also remember that Kung Fu Panda 2 had a terrible domestic box office, but more than made up for it in the foreign box office, so there is hope.

  • Nic Kramer | July 2, 2014 8:44 AMReply

    I admit I haven't seen it yet (I've been busy), but I am hoping to see this in theaters. It's been getting good reviews and I thinks the public should give this sequal a chance.

  • Mike | July 1, 2014 4:12 PMReply

    So- what is the hijinks going on here anyway? There were twice as many screenings of 22 Jump Street here- we had trouble finding a showing of HTTYD at a time we could take our daughter on opening day. I see that as interference from distributors, and not the quality of the product. This is definitely one of the best US animation movies made in some time, and hands down one of the best by Dreamworks- which has produced some ridiculous duds. If 22 had 50 showings and HTTYD had 14 how is it going to compete?

  • Spangler | July 1, 2014 1:57 AMReply

    Parents weren't about to take their kids to an animated film featuring a gay character. Period. "Outing" Gobber was beyond stupid. Unnecessary and stupid.

  • Sara | July 5, 2014 8:10 PM

    You can't be serious... the only reason people even know about that is because it was in the some articles. I doubt people in the theater even noticed... and if it offended them, then that is their problem.

  • ILDC | July 1, 2014 7:08 PM

    I'm 23 and I didn't think of homosexuality when he said that line.

  • Digislim | June 30, 2014 5:17 PMReply

    HTTYD 2 is exactly what the World needs more of: high quality, mass market entertainment that appeals to the whole family and has strong positive messages (anti-war, pointing out how the Feminine can help build our broken world up instead of the constant fighting and destruction that the media continually perpetuates). As an avid IW reader, I am grateful for this kind of coverage (mainly because I am a fan of this film series). My inner sceptic / conspiracy theorist is certain that the yarns being spun by the other media outlets about this film killing DW are generated from within the ranks of the larger corporations that profit from a world where killing and death are the best ways to engage with the people, using fear as a way to keep people sitting home, doing nothing except consuming to fill that hole we all have. HTTYD Series gets my full support and I shout it from the rooftops because that is the kind of works I want my two boys to grow up in, one where war is not an answer and where the Feminine is not given full authority, but she is granted a seat at the table of resolving conflict and has some very special gifts to offer that process. Our real world would do good to absorb some of these qualities.

    Kudos to IW for writing this article (even if it only about the fiscal health of DW); I am very happy that there is a news outlet combatting that negative press! Thank you so much and you have further entrenched this avid reader.

  • Dumbunny | June 29, 2014 5:08 AMReply

    The weather has been too gorgeous. I have every intention of seeing this in 3D on some stormy or hot and sticky day.

  • India Joe | June 28, 2014 10:44 PMReply

    Did you just say "robust financial health"??? The cold hard truth is disappointing Dragons2 box office has already affected a number of artists via layoffs this week, with many more warned to prepare themselves. The weekly b.o. drop-off as of today indicates this won't have the legs it needs to support DW's astonishing P/E ratio of 325. For reference DIS has a P/E ratio of 21. Yes, I am implying DWA is overpriced by a factor of FIFTEEN, with a fair price of $1.55 a share. So why did this happen? If you look at the dragons graph at HSX you can see a dramatic falloff around May 28. What happened on May 28th? The second Dragons2 trailer was released; the one that gave away the entire story. This pattern also happened on Peabody. Fox marketing is single-handedly removing any bit of mystery and intrigue from potential movie-goers, and turning DWA films into the "I'll rent it" zone.

  • Nic Kramer | June 29, 2014 9:40 AM

    Calm down. You're starting to sound like Amid.

    Personally, in order to save money, I think Dreamworks should take a break from buying other properties (although, I don't know how much they bought Felix for). It's not a healthy company habit and one that gets mixed reactions from the public.

  • CCB | June 28, 2014 12:25 PMReply

    I don't understand how How To Train Your Dragon 2 could be a disaster. Seriously, someone explain it to me, because it makes absolutely no sense to me.

    Apparently those, so called movie critics don't know a good movie if it shoved a rusty metal pike up their asses- remember when Dream Works wouldn't stop the constant Shrek and Ice Age sequels? Yeah, things could be a lot worse...

  • GW | June 28, 2014 4:21 PM

    Ice Age is a Blue Sky series, not Dreamworks.

  • Jeffrey Gray | June 28, 2014 1:58 PM

    Actually, critics have generally *loved* HTTYD2. It's *audiences* it's been having difficulty attracting, and there just doesn't seem to be one overwhelming reason as to *why.* But it definitely deserves better than it's getting.

  • Ron Kronebusch | June 26, 2014 5:58 PMReply

    Hi there I love the work Dream Work does they come out with some very wholesome family entertainment. I'm sure if the kids could talk you would have stronger reviews. So keep up the good work. Only one thing you really have to do the film in 3D I have been to a few 3D Movies and really doesn't really do a lot for me and a lot of my friends as well. What ever happened to straight HD or Blue Ray prefer that a lot better. Just my opine. Plus you would make more money they charge so much to go see a 3D movie which causes us to not go to the movies as often. The rates of a movie now with 3D is like $17 dollars now plus snacks your looking sixty dollars for one movie if not more. Thanks but can you still make movies that are not 3d thank you.

  • ll | June 26, 2014 4:54 PMReply

    Love the spin. Keep it up.

  • Todd DuBois | June 26, 2014 2:59 PMReply

    Points well taken. Here's one tidbit related to expectations of the parties involved, FWIW. A LA times article dated for June 12 ("22 Jump Street' and 'How to Train Your Dragon 2' battle for No. 1") had this to say about the expectations of Fox:

    "Both could gross $60 million to $65 million in ticket sales through Sunday in the United States and Canada, according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys, though the 3D computer-animated fantasy should out-gross "22 Jump Street" in the long run.

    Studios behind the movies are projecting more conservative figures than analysts are predicting. "Dragon 2's" distributor 20th Century Fox says it expects $45 million to $50 million from the opening weekend, while Sony Pictures sees a similar debut for "22 Jump Street."

  • Tre | June 26, 2014 2:44 PMReply

    I thought that HTTYD 1 was awesome and am really looking foreward to the 2nd when it FINALLY hits UK cinemas. It's certainly much better than another sodding Shrek sequel. ¬_¬

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