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'Turbo' off to slower-than-expected start at box office

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Shares of DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. fell 4.5 percent Monday after an analyst predicted a writedown of as much as $50 million on the new movie “Turbo,” citing a disappointing opening at the box office.

The movie, about a speedy snail who aspires to compete in the Indianapolis 500, saw ticket sales of $21.5 million this past weekend. At that rate, “Turbo” may not reach $100 million during its run in U.S. and Canadian theaters, Piper Jaffray analyst James Marsh wrote in a research note.

The Indianapolis-based IndyCar Series and open-wheel racing enthusiasts were hoping the movie would create a buzz about the sport, but interest has fallen short of expectations so far.

Shares in DreamWorks, based in Glendale, Calif., declined to $23.77 at  Monday's closing. Stock in the independent film studio is still faring well this year, up 43 percent.

The film had a slower start than “Rise of the Guardians,” DreamWorks Animation’s 2012 release that opened with $23.8 million weekend in November and led to an $87 million writedown.

“While reviews have been positive for ["Turbo"] and could help build word of mouth, at this stage we think it will be lucky to hit $100 million in the current competitive environment,” Marsh wrote.

The analyst, who previously had estimated a $140 million total domestic take for “Turbo,” dropped his forecast for international receipts to $225 million, down from $260 million.

The Rotten Tomatoes website, which compiles reviews from critics and audience members, says 65 percent of the 72 critics gave the movie a positive review. About 73 percent of the nearly 30,000 audience members who rated it gave it a favorable rating.

A review from IBJ Arts & Entertainment Editor Lou Harry said the film may appeal to young children but leave older viewers less than exhilarated. He did praise its treatment of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Opening-weekend figures don’t always reflect a movie’s potential, particularly in markets outside the United States, said Allison Rawlings, a DreamWorks Animation spokeswoman. “Turbo” has yet to open in Europe, Korea and China. The film opened on a weekend crowded with four new movies plus the animated holdover hit “Despicable Me,” she said.

“It’s certainly too early to tell” about the movie’s performance, Rawlings said. “The film resonates really well with our core audience.”

“Turbo” won a top “A” rating from CinemaScore, a Las Vegas-based research firm that asked audience members to grade movies from “A” to “F” after seeing them on opening day.

Since the July 17 opening, “Turbo” has generated an estimated $31.2 million at domestic theaters, according to researcher Box Office Mojo. Benjamin Mogil, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus & Co., had originally estimated $40 million at this point.

Merchandising and better terms with new distributor 21st Century Fox Inc. may help DreamWorks Animation avoid a writedown on the scale of “Guardians,” Piper’s Marsh wrote. That movie generated $303.1 million worldwide, including $103.4 million domestically, according to Box Office Mojo.

DreamWorks Animation signed a five-year film distribution agreement with Fox last August, ending a six-year pact with Viacom Inc.’s Paramount Pictures. The Fox deal allows DreamWorks Animation to keep rights to domestic television revenue and provides lower digital distribution costs.

Merchandising for “Turbo” will benefit from cross-promotion with a planned television show based on the characters that will appear on Netflix Inc.’s Web-based subscription service, Marsh said. The movie also will appear on Netflix.

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  • Vote Early-Vote Often
    LOL, they will write it off as a loss. Another tax benefit for all of those wealthy investors involved. And like all other Indycar popularity contests; the theme is "Vote early - Vote often."
  • FINALLY
    I finally got to see a TURBO promo during TV news at 6PM last nite!!!! Dreamworks stock tanked so someone must had the production team get a promo out PRONTO! this is just like the iZod Racing League works. INDY 500 get lowest rating since TV invented and the speedwway expects that to carry them promtion-wise all year. Those days are done friends. DONE.
  • BMC shouldn't get all emotional
    because we all know the damage that someone's emotions coupled with their mother's checkbook can do
  • The IRL 500
    isn't even the most watched race on the SUNDAY BEFORE MEMORIAL DAY.
  • The most watched
    in Speedway, maybe. In the real world it is in aboot 79th place. Talk aboot somebody's fiction and living in dream world. The IRL 500 isn't even the most watched sporting event on the Sunday before Memorial Day.
  • Wow, call somebody out for their "Fiction" and you get flagged/deleted
    Thanks for sticking up for your side kick Sinclair. So not only are you a IRL expert you are a Cinema expert too? WOW! Let's actually look at some points at the article. The feedback of people who have seen it is good. The estimated take in of sales for this movie will exceed production costs. That means a profit does it not. And tell me again where this movie is showcasing a unpopular product? The movie showcases the Indy 500, not the racing series. The Indy 500 is still the most watched sporting event...So you are not making any sense. Standard protocol for you.
  • OK, so what he meant was
    the over abundance of advertising isn't having a good result. More wasted money on an unpopular product. Kind of like IRL advertising.
  • Chief doesn't realize
    that it is everybody else's responsibility to make the IRL likable and popular. It's not the responsibility of the IRL to make itself popular.
  • No promotion
    I saw NO PROMOTION of the Turbo film. Films like this go straight to DVD. However, Disney/ABC/ESPN (partner of the IRL/Indycar Series) has promoted the heck out of PLANES. Even RUSH, the movie about the F1 racing lives of Lauda and Hunt got more publicity and it won't be released until late September. So, just like everything else, the corn-pone's at 16th and Jonestown have squandered another opportunity. How long before you Speedway supporters see the light? Never?
    • And so
      This is a movie that features a snail; it's not about snails so it would be nearsighted to judge the like-ability of snails based on the negative or positive success of the movie.
    • the conjuring/desp2/monsters effect
      The Conjuring becoming a phenomenom & more buzz & a crowded kids marketplace didn't help plus a snail is a supporting character ...shoulda used a like a cuddly sloth!!
    • It's the snail
      people just aren't interested in snails
    • The problem
      Those who go to see it seem to like it, it's just that not enough people are interested in seeing it. The film and the race.
    • kids loved it
      Took the kids on Sunday. Three girls ages 12, 9 & 5. All three loved it but no one asked if we could go to the Indy 500 next year. As for me, it was entertaining but not nearly as well done as Cars (the original not the hideous sequel). This is a movie that features the Indy 500 it's not about the Indy 500 so it would be nearsighted to judge the state of IndyCar based on the negative or positive success of the movie.
    • IMS, Not Content with Destroying
      open wheel racing, has set its sights on destroying Hollywood too

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