Claymation Tops the Charts

DreamWorks Animation (NYSE: DWA  ) had a frighteningly good time over the weekend, with its newest animated offering topping the box office charts. Does that make it a worthy investment? Let's take a closer look.

According to Boxofficemojo.com, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit took in $16 million, beating out such films as Disney's (NYSE: DIS  ) Flightplan and Tim Burton's Corpse Bride from Time Warner (NYSE: TWX  ) . Given the slower economic environment for movies in general and a month that doesn't necessarily guarantee blockbusters, I'd say that shareholders should be -- in very relative terms -- reasonably satisfied with the flick's performance.

The natural index for comparison with this film is Chicken Run, which was created by Wallace & Gromit creator Aardman Animations. DreamWorks Animation stakeholders aren't going to like this comparison, but it has to be made. Chicken Run opened with $17.5 million and a per-theater average north of $7,000. This new Wallace & Gromit outing sported a per-theater average of closer to $4,000. Since Chicken Run was released more than five years ago, one would have hoped for some more pull from the DreamWorks Animation brand with audiences in terms of the per-theater average. I think the reason The Curse of Were-Rabbit has underperformed Chicken Run could be the latter's summertime release. People don't have as much time to see movies once school starts back up.

Chicken Run went on to a domestic gross of more than $100 million, but I don't see that happening with this particular claymationed bit of celluloid. It was great to see Wallace & Gromit's gross dollars jump 75% from Friday to Saturday, but Chicken Run did ultimately benefit from its summer launch date.

Only time will tell how well the new flick stands up and what kind of word of mouth the marketplace will give it. (I've heard decent reports on the quality of the picture.) In any event, it's good to have a continuous stream of products coming into the marketplace to garner incremental revenues and increase brand awareness.

The importance of the brand cannot be underestimated, since Jeffrey Katzenberg and company are in a long-term war with Pixar (Nasdaq: PIXR  ) over the title of top animated dog. In the end, there probably will be room for both. But for today, at 10 times earnings, DreamWorks Animation looks very reasonably priced for those willing to hold for many years.

Dream on:

There's room for both Pixar and DreamWorks Animation in the pages ofMotley Fool Stock Advisor, which has recommended both stocks. Time Warner is also a Stock Advisor pick.

Fool contributor Steven Mallas owns shares of Disney. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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