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DreamWorks Animation Retreats on Film Output Plan

How To Train Your Dragon

CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg tells analysts that the studio will address previously stated goal of releasing three CG-animated films a year, every other year, playing it by ear.

In 2010 DreamWorks Animation became the first studio to release three CG-animated films in a year, but on Thursday CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg was walking back his goal of doing likewise on a biennial basis.

For now, DWA has Kung Fu Panda 2 and Puss in Boots planned this year and Madagascar 3, The Croods and Rise of the Guardians the year after that. But beyond 2012, Katzenberg said the studio will play it by ear, even if that means abandoning his proclamation that DWA would try to release three pictures in a single year, every other year.

Katzenberg was speaking Thursday on a conference call with analysts to discuss the firm's fourth-quarter financial results, which would have been a little lighter than expected if not for a one-time tax benefit.

The company earned $85.2 million in the quarter, a 95% improvement over the same frame a year ago. Revenue jumped 42% to $275.7 million.

The film accounting for the biggest chunk of revenue during the quarter, $80.3 million, was How To Train Your Dragon, mostly coming from the 7.5 million DVDs sold worldwide as of the end of the quarter.

With $72.2 million, Shrek Forever After was next. Much of that revenue also came from DVD sales, which amounted to 7.2 million by quarter's end.

LIbrary and other items were good for $67.2 million. Megamind, which was a disappointment at the box office, contributed $26.6 million mostly from consumer products.

Kung Fu Panda contributed $23.4 million in revenue because of domestic and international free TV and Monsters vs. Aliens was good for $6 million thanks to DVD sales.

One analyst Thursday asked Katzenberg if the success of Universal's Despicable Me would encourage him to make less expensive films. Katzenberg called that movie "terrific" and said that this year DWA will spend $130 million per film, down from $140 million or more last year.

The same analyst asked if DWA might be better off merged with a bigger company in order to benefit from leveraging franchises across various media, theme parks and the like.

Katzenberg reminded him of two arena shows coming, one based on Kung Fu Panda and another on How To Train Your Dragon, and of a cruise ship partnership with Royal Caribbean and of numerous TV shows.

"These are big questions," Katzenberg told the analyst. "I'm glad you're thinking strategically for us."

"Does Disney have more levers to pull?" Katzenberg asked the analyst before answering the question himself. "They do. But they also have an 80-year head start."