While the press release states that DreamWorks was encouraged by its new distributor, 20th Century Fox, to make the move, there are a few other potential reasons for the push. The most obvious is lackluster US box-office performance of DreamWorks’ latest feature, The Rise of the Guardians, which was released in released in mid-November and failed to pull in big numbers during the Thanksgiving and holiday season. The film caused DreamWorks to write off nearly $96 million from its books. DreamWorks may be trying to avoid a repeat dismal performance, especially since Mr. Peabody & Sherman would have been pitted against Disney’s princess flick, Frozen.
Another reason for the delay is that March releases have recently proven very successful for animated films. The Lorax, released last March, had incredible success and pulled in the 8th-biggest box office opening for an animated film ever. The competition is typically less saturated than in November, so this might be the right move for DreamWorks.
Regarding the change, DreamWorks’ CEO, Jeffrey Katzenberg said:
We believe the best strategy for DreamWorks Animation in the long run is to ensure that every one of our films has an optimal release date with the biggest opportunity to succeed at the box office. The move of Mr. Peabody & Sherman means that we will now release two films in 2013, and we are adjusting our operating infrastructure costs accordingly.
The phrase “we are adjusting our operating infrastructure costs accordingly” is CEO speak for staff cuts. DreamWorks Animation currently employees 2200 employees and Deadline is reporting that as many as 500 people could lose their jobs (23% of DW’s workforce). An anonymous insider reported on TheLayoff.com that the cuts would come from the Peabody and Me & My Shadow crews.
DreamWorks has stepped up their game during the past few years with some really great films. I got really excited for Mr. Peabody & Sherman when the character designs and teaser poster was released last June. Unfortunately, Sherman is taking the March spot that was previously reserved for the CGI/2D hybrid Me & My Shadow, which now will “return to development”. There was a lot of buzz and excitement for Shadow; now who knows when we’ll be able to see that project hit theatres.
What are your thoughts about this move?