DreamWorks' "Turbo" Is Turning Into a Box Office Wreck

Move over, Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) Studios! DreamWorks Animation (NASDAQ: DWA  ) is showing everybody how it's done.

That is, if everyone wants to know how to fail miserably at the box office.

To be sure, if you thought the meager $29.2 million domestic opening weekend take achieved by Disney's The Lone Ranger was bad, DreamWorks' Turbo just limped through the finish line of its own dismal $21.3 million weekend debut.

 
Image source: DreamWorks.com

What's worse, considering the huge number of folks who've already seen Despicable Me 2 from Comcast's (NASDAQ: CMCSA  ) Universal Studios -- remember, DM2 single-handedly killed The Lone Ranger by taking in an enormous $183.1 million domestically in its first five days, beating even the five-day animated movie record previously held by Disney Pixar's Toy Story 3 -- there's no reason younger audiences shouldn't have wanted to jump at the chance to watch another fun animated summer flick.

Then again, even though DM2 was released more than three weeks ago, it still managed to bring in another $24.9 million last weekend alone, making Turbo's performance that much more sad.

And the winner is ... horror?
So which movie took home the gold at last weekend's box office?

Look no further than The Conjuring from Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX  ) Warner Brothers Studios, a horror film that enticed moviegoers to spend more than $41.8 million in the U.S. last weekend, or more than double its $20 million production budget.


Image source: theconjuring.warnerbrothers.com (cropped for size).

Call me crazy, but something tells me this one didn't cannibalize sales from Turbo's target audience, either.

To its credit, I suppose Turbo's $135 million production budget does pale in comparison with the $215 million Disney spent on The Lone Ranger, so DreamWorks' mistake may not be nearly as expensive as the House of Mouse's stumble.

But remember, DreamWorks is no Disney, and its last box office failure with 2012's Rise of the Guardians, which took in $23.8 million in its first weekend, had a production budget of around $145 million.

For those of you keeping track, that film ended up ultimately resulting in $87 million in writedowns for the company, which it announced in its following quarterly report. Worse yet, those losses also forced DreamWorks to later lay off 350 employees, or around 15% of its entire workforce.

This time around, however, perhaps there's a chance the animation specialist might be able to fall back on the relative success of The Croods earlier this year, which has managed to gross over $582 million in ticket sales during its theatrical run so far.

In the end, however, it's a safe bet Turbo will cost DreamWorks a pretty penny when all is said and done, which is why the stock closed down nearly 5% on Monday.

In the meantime, you should also remember this battle goes far beyond the big screen, and the future of television begins now with an all-out $2.2 trillion media war that pits cable companies such as Cox, Comcast, and Time Warner against technology giants such as Apple, Google, and Netflix.

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Read/Post Comments (9) | Recommend This Article (7)

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  • Report this Comment On July 23, 2013, at 9:18 PM, yellowducker wrote:

    I'm a big fan of animation and have been since I was a wee lad. When I saw that Dreamworks was making a movie about snails, my first thought was: this movie is doomed.

    I think humans in general really prefer hero characters to be more like us --y'know: arms and (usually) legs too -- and it helps, of course, to have expressive eyes that don't move around on stalks.

    I have a feeling that the 6 to 10 set (the real cartoon lovers!) and many, if not most human fans of all ages share my tastes, even if unconsciously.

    I'm not crazy about talking snails or any creature without arms. Forget snakes, unless you want them as villains. Talking cars? forget it! they haven't done Pixar any favors at the box office and I have my doubts about the talking airplanes I been seeing glimpses of lately. We humans relate better to animated critters with arms, legs, and big eyes, be they cats, dogs, bears, weasels, ogres, demons, monsters, princesses, heroes, whatever.

  • Report this Comment On July 23, 2013, at 10:30 PM, rpw21 wrote:

    I don't believe it is all that difficult to figure out why Turbo sales were low. Families can't afford watching every movie in the theaters! Most probably spent their allotted amount watching monsters university and despicable me 2. They should have released it earlier this year.

  • Report this Comment On July 23, 2013, at 11:50 PM, boethius70 wrote:

    Well, "Finding Nemo" kind of blows your "must have legs and arms to be successful" theory out of the water however intuitively I think most people don't think an animated movie about a snail is all that interesting. There was zero in the trailer that made me think "wow I'd love to go see a movie about an ultra-fast snail!" Maybe some small kids would think it's cool but the demographic has to be tiny. Frankly I'm baffled how this ever got beyond the development stage at Dreamworks. I remember being pleasantly surprised at how great "Kung Fu Panda" was - and on a certain level the idea that a kung fu-fighting panda seems kind of ridiculous but Dreamworks made a great, entertaining movie. I suppose they could have done the same here, but there is just a major sticking point in getting over the IDEA of a snail as the protagonist. You almost have to have a humorous Jack Black-type person voicing the snail to make it entertaining enough. It's too bad, really. Dreamworks can clearly make very good animated movies and create great stories - though their fundamental style is very different from Pixar, who is so good at it ("Cars" and the various "Cars" spin-offs the exceptions; "Cars" struck me as a rather dreary, down-beat movie for Pixar; I also couldn't quite get over the apparent irony of rats making food in Ratatouille but that was well done enough to still find it very entertaining). Hopefully they'll pull it out later.

  • Report this Comment On July 24, 2013, at 12:46 AM, ajv1971 wrote:

    Maybe in the USA is a wreck but family movie specially animation goes big overseas. the movie opened in several markets including latinamerica and believe me it's doing quite well. I guess with Despicable Me 2 and Monsters University (also released overseas) people went for the frights of "The Conjuring", which haven't been released overseas yet.

  • Report this Comment On July 24, 2013, at 12:51 AM, TommyMarx wrote:

    Since you posted this on the 23rd, and DM2 was released on the 3rd, your claim that "even though DM2 was released more than three weeks ago" is wrong. Unless we're talking about a wrinkle in time, Three weeks would make this the 24th, and more than three weeks would make this the 25th.

    Turbo was released exactly two weeks after DM2 was released. Turbo is a huge disappointment, so I'm not sure why you would feel the need to exaggerate that disappointment to the point where you transcended time and logic, but hey, I'm not an editor. Evidently neither is your "editor".

    I didn't bother reading the rest of the article.

  • Report this Comment On July 24, 2013, at 12:53 AM, btc909 wrote:

    Cars, More Cars, Cars with Snails, Cars with Planes!

  • Report this Comment On July 24, 2013, at 7:15 AM, PeabodySherman wrote:

    The next DreamWorks movie is scheduled for release in early 2014. It is an animated movie based on the Peabody and Sherman characters from the Rocky and Bullwinkle show. I don't know if that will do any better than Turbo.

  • Report this Comment On July 24, 2013, at 11:43 AM, antipolis wrote:

    I'm not sure that some of the Motley Fool editors know how much their articles affect the marketplace. Perhaps Steve Symington should know that his subtle sarcastic tone regarding Dreamworks and the company's latest film offering, Turbo, has added another negative ding the stock, one that that I happen to own. I am a Motley Fool subscriber because I want smart and objective analysis, not someone's lazy opinion.

  • Report this Comment On July 24, 2013, at 11:44 AM, YetAnotherNerd wrote:

    It's amazing how much one can tell from a trailer. I remember first seeing the trailer for "Turbo" and it was flat flat flat. It had no zing, no buzz, the humor was flaccid and it didn't seem to have any originality to it at all. Over the last few weeks I've also been hearing "Turbo" ads on the radio, same thing only worse as the lack of visuals really highlighted how lame the dialog was.

    Interestingly enough, I also had reservations about the Lone Ranger, the trailer, while showing a lot of action, just was "missing something". There is an obvious difference between "action" and "thrilling action" and while the movie seemed to have plenty of the former, it was seriously lacking in the latter.

    Hollywood is becoming much like out govt, rampant spending and huge egos. The issue isn't that bad movies are being made, the issue is that movies cost such a ridiculous amount of money. Why on earth does a movie like "Turbo" cost so much. A better written script, slightly cheaper graphics (leading to a cheaper budget) would have yielded a significantly better movie.

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