Shares of DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. fell Monday after the company's latest computer animated movie, "Puss in Boots," did worse than analysts had forecast.
THE SPARK: The spin-off of the "Shrek" series opened atop the box office charts on the weekend with an estimated $34 million in ticket sales, but analysts had been looking for an opening in the $40 million to $45 million range.
Stifel Nicolaus analyst Benjamin Mogil cut his domestic box office estimate on the film to $130 million from $160 million and expected sales of DVDs and Blu-ray discs to be 4.5 million instead of 5.1 million. He kept his "Sell" rating on the shares.
Cowen & Co. analyst Doug Creutz said that it was the lowest opening of any DreamWorks Animation film since "Antz" in 1998, and said it was the fifth film in a row to underperform in its opening weekend relative to expectations.
On a conference call with analysts last week, DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg said that he would put anything above the record for the pre-Halloween weekend of $33.6 million in the "win column." The estimated box office haul barely eked out a win by that measure.
THE BIG PICTURE: DreamWorks Animation produces just two or three animated movies per year and has devoted all its movies to the 3-D format. Its earnings are highly dependent on the success of each movie. The company is facing headwinds from falling DVD sales and has attempted to deal with it by licensing its content to the highest bidder in the pay TV window _ Netflix Inc.
THE ANALYSIS: More studios are putting out high-quality computer animated feature films and DreamWorks Animation is facing tough competition, from Viacom Inc.'s Paramount, its long-time distributor, to Comcast Corp.'s Universal Pictures and News Corp.'s 20th Century Fox.
Creutz said it may be time for the company to seek a buyer.
"With few growth levers left to pull, and competition set to increase further, we think it may be time for management to aggressively pursue strategic alternatives," he said in a research note Monday.
SHARE ACTION: DreamWorks shares were down $1.40, or 7 percent, at $18.72 in afternoon trading Monday. Shares have marched steadily downward since November of last year when they established the current 52-week peak of $37.74.