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Shares of DreamWorks Animation (NASDAQ: DWA ) have risen more than 80% so far in 2013, and with good reason. The children's-movie maker is riding a wave of momentum driven by the success of The Croods earlier this year, which hauled in a gross of more than $583 million worldwide at the box office and contributed $71.8 million in revenue for DreamWorks last quarter alone.
And despite earlier fears of big writedowns resulting from Turbo's slow start on the big screen in July, the company shocked investors during its second-quarter earnings call when it said the quirky snail-racing flick -- which cost an incredible $135 million to produce -- is expected to be profitable thanks largely to a late push in print and advertising spending overseas.
As it stands, Turbo has taken in more than $142 million on the big screen worldwide so far, leaving the company some room to look forward to profiting from its enormous programming deal with Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX ) , part of which includes the creation of an exclusive children's show based on the film after its theatrical run concludes.
Going forward, DreamWorks' next big bet is on the March 2014 release of Mr. Peabody & Sherman, an offshoot from the Peabody's Improbable History segments of the popular 1960s cartoon The Rocky and Bulwinkle Show.
But while the folks at DreamWorks are busy putting a new spin on old material, I have another suggestion for them.
Why not go back to the Bible?
After all, while perusing the latest DreamWorks titles to show up on Netflix's streaming service earlier this week, I was reminded of DreamWorks' admirable efforts retelling the story of Moses when I spotted its 1998 hit The Prince of Egypt.
In fact, despite its slow holiday weekend debut back then, when it took in just $14.5 million domestically, The Prince of Egypt actually bucked the normal trend by increasing ticket sales during its second weekend to around $15.1 million. Ultimately, the film's staying power helped it take in more than $218.6 million worldwide on a production budget of just $70 million, garnering two Oscar nominations and one win in the process.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying DreamWorks should undertake a biblical project with the sole aim of profiting handsomely. To the contrary, companies generally do much better if they view profits as a result of compelling work, not a goal.
But you have to admit: The demand for great biblical retellings has never been stronger.
Remember, while a decidedly more adult-centric rendering, Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ brought in nearly $612 million in box office receipts on a $30 million budget back in 2004.
More recently, News Corp.'s (NASDAQ: NWS ) 20th Century Fox sold an unprecedented 525,000 copies of miniseries The Bible on DVD and Blu-Ray disc in the first week of its April release alone, making it the fastest-selling TV title released on home video over the past five years.
A little over two months later, the 10-part series had passed the 1 million-unit mark, and earlier in the year it had propelled A&E Networks' The History Channel -- in which Disney incidentally owns a 50% stake -- to first place for Sunday night ratings, with 95 million cumulative viewers tuning in over the course of The Bible's television run.
In 2014, other movie studios are already set to benefit from new Bible narratives on the big screen.
Viacom's (NASDAQ: VIA ) Paramount Pictures, for example, is planning an early 2014 cinema release of Noah, with the title character of the iconic story to be portrayed by Russell Crowe, and other big-name cast members including Emma Watson, Jennifer Connelly, and Anthony Hopkins.
Later next year, 20th Century Fox is also hoping famed Director Ridley Scott can bring Exodus to life through the acting talents of Christian Bale as Moses.
There's something missing
But for all the big-budget biblical material set to arrive for the grown-ups out there, there's still a gaping hole in the category for well done children's entertainment -- something that happens to be DreamWorks' forte.
And even outside the stories of Noah and Moses, DreamWorks would have plenty of intriguing stories to choose from, including the life of David, Esther and King Xerxes, or Jonah and the whale -- to name a few.
In the end, if DreamWorks could tackle the Bible well enough, you can bet it would be able to enjoy the fruits of its labor long after the credits roll on the big screen, just as its 15-year-old film in The Prince of Egypt is being watched by millions of Netflix viewers at home today.
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