Thursday, October 30, 2014

Packing Up

DreamWorks Animation is really thinking about those release dates… And why shouldn't they be?

DreamWorks Animation usually secures dates for future films long before others do. As far back as 2012, they were already locking down what they thought would be their definitive 2013-2016 release dates for all their future projects. Of course, over the years, their entire upcoming slate has changed and reshuffled in many ways. So many ways, it would give an outsider a headache. It even gives me a headache…

Earlier this year, they staked out pretty reasonable dates for their upcoming films. However, something has happened…

Marvel happened…

DreamWorks intended to release The Croods 2 on 11/3/2017 and Puss in Boots 2 on 11/2/2018, very reasonable dates at the time. Marvel moved in on both of those dates (Black Panther opens on the former, Inhumans on the latter), so DWA moved those films to the Decembers of their respective years. I'm sure they'll probably move those two sequels again, and why's that? We'll get to that…

Anyways, another November DreamWorks release is now set to go head-to-head with a Marvel film. The other day, when unveiling their massive Phase 3 slate, Marvel announced that Doctor Strange would be an 11/4/2016 release. This is the same day as DreamWorks' Trolls, based on the iconic toy, and DreamWorks locked that date over a year ago. But now they have to move, and apparently B.O.O. (currently 6/5/2015) is going to be moved too, even though it is not opening against a Marvel film. DWA is concerned though, because it opens between Avengers: Age of Ultron (5/1/2015) and Ant-Man (7/17/2015), though I don't see how that's much of an issue. That film's pretty far distanced from those other films. I'd be a little more worried about Paramount Animation's Monster Trucks (5/29/2015) and Pixar's Inside Out (6/19/2015)…

Of course, the general public would probably (condescendingly) say, "But Doctor Strange and Trolls cater to different demographics. One is a PG-13 Marvel movie, the other is a kiddie flick." Of course, I am here to beat the dead horse again: Animated "family" films (not "kids films", Barney the Movie is a "kids movie", not something like a Disney film) need to appeal to all demographics in order to make the big money that they make. You think Frozen, Despicable Me, any Pixar film, made over $200 million because of just kiddies dragging their parents? Nope. It's everyone going. And parents decide whether or not they want to take their kids to a movie or not. If it was just kids, then why did the likes of Smurfs 2 and Escape from Planet Earth not take in big numbers?

I don't need to explain it again in painstaking detail. Simple: Animated movies aren't just for kids, they need all ages coming in to be hits, the end.

Marvel movies, since they appeal to almost every demographic, will crush whatever DreamWorks has to offer. Marvel movies, despite carrying PG-13 ratings and wearing some violence/adult content, are big with kids, along with teens (who normally avoid animation) and adults. Yeah, you do not simply open a big-budget family-friendly G/PG animated film against something like that. You might as well try to take down a dragon without a sword.

Marvel is huge right now, DreamWorks is not. DreamWorks' original non-sequel animated films aren't guaranteed successes anymore. The budgets have risen for these films, and expectations are high, sometimes unreasonably high. The CGI animated film "fad" is long over, too. Audiences now are choosy, as they won't go see a film just because it's computer animated or is animated, period. The same applies to pretty much every other kind of film. In order for films like Home, B.O.O. and Trolls to be successful, they need to look good from the marketing. The trailers, ads, TV spots, et al all have to successfully sell the product. They have to make the bread look like it's worth buying, you know?

Jeffrey Katzenberg himself said…

"We continue to look at our schedule here and the competitive marketplace, and we will remain flexible in the release of these movies and the dating of these films. You can look at our release schedule as the intent as of the moment. Every time something happens in the marketplace we’re going to respond to that in the most offensive way that we can to protect the performance of those films."

"We have not made any full analyses yet or any decisions. We will stay diligent on that."

DreamWorks, I think, should really begin to look into non-summer/non-holiday dates. Sure, we've had March releases like How To Train Your Dragon, The Croods, and Mr. Peabody & Sherman, but… Why not more January and February releases? Why no October releases? The Lego Movie just proved to us that you can release a great-looking film anytime of the year and it will do well. The skeptics said, "But kids will be in school. February is dead season!" Lego Movie made money because it looked great. If only kids wanted to go see it, it would not have done well. Adults went, teens went, The Lego Movie appealed to them. That's why it made big bucks! Simple as that.

Right now, I do like some of DreamWorks' release dates. January 2017 is a fine spot for something like Captain Underpants, ditto the February 2018 spot for the offbeat Australia-set musical Larrikins. The perception that every big-grossing movie HAS to be a summer or holiday season release needs to go. It wasn't like this decades ago, and as the recent years are proving, it's not supposed to be that way. People will go see a movie anytime of the year, it just has to look good from the get-go. You can't convince someone to see a movie if the trailers aren't selling it. DreamWorks released Rise of the Guardians in November of the year it came out (2012), but it didn't open well. Why is that? The marketing failed to sell it. Audiences were iffy on it to begin with ("A badass Russian Santa with tattoos? That looks stupid!"), and the ads didn't convince them that it was actually worth seeing. By contrast, look at "dead-season-August" release Guardians of the Galaxy. If you told audiences, "Oh, there's going to be a sci-fi movie with a gun-toting space raccoon and a talking tree!", they'd think "That sounds stupid". But lo and behold, Marvel/Disney's marketing for the film successfully sold the picture and it did very, very well!

I think generalizations don't help in these situations. Movies don't always flop because they are low quality. Mr. Peabody & Sherman didn't lose money because it was "bad", it lost money because it didn't open well. A lot of terrible movies make big money (Transformers, hello!), a lot of good movies make big money. Many bad movies bomb, and so do many good movies. Sometimes audiences just don't like a good movie, sometimes audiences don't like a bad movie…

Now… One thing this article completely failed to mention was…

Kung Fu Panda 3 opening FIVE days after Star Wars: Episode VII!

Sure the focus is on Marvel dates, and Episode VII is not a Marvel film, but it's freakin' Star WarsKung Fu Panda 2 did okay business stateside while it soared worldwide, but still, do you think families and audiences all across America are going to want to see Kung Fu Panda 3 in theaters when the latest, hugely-anticipated Star Wars movie just opened?

I keep saying it, but Kung Fu Panda 3 and various other DreamWorks films have to move. Their original films should really be put in spots that are not too close to other animated films or blockbuster events like Marvel/Star Wars films. Disney will also release a Star Wars movie every calendar year, so that means December 2017 and December 2018 are going to be invaded by Star Wars movies. DreamWorks ought to move Croods 2 and Puss in Boots 2 right away, because Star Wars films are coming.

The good thing is, DreamWorks and Katzenberg are thinking about all of this…

Prepare for yet again another slate change from the moon boy studio.


  1. I really wish some company would buy DreamWorks. With that, they wouldn't have to worry about making a consistent amount of money and laying off so many people. But I digress.

    "U don't bring down a dragon without a sword". Hiccup of Berk anyone?

  2. Well, there's talk of the Japanese company SoftBank buying Dreamworks.