Tardy 'Prince' delights DWA's Katzenberg

Potter pic's date change clears 'Madagascar 2' competition

Memo to Warner Bros. from DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg: Thanks!

"The single greatest Christmas gift ever in my 35 years in the movie business was Warners moving 'Harry Potter' to next summer," Katzenberg said Wednesday.

He was speaking, of course, of the decision to push ahead "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" to July 17 from Nov. 21, leaving DWA's "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" with a lot less competition.

Katzenberg, speaking at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia XVII Conference in New York, told Wall Street analysts to adjust the "multiplier" estimates for the movie. A "good" movie, he said, will earn 3.5 times opening weekend boxoffice, while a "very good" should get a 4 multiplier and an "exceptional" movie a 4.3 multiplier.

"That opening weekend is going to be bigger than we anticipated and it will have a bigger multiplier on it," he said of "Madagascar," now that it doesn't have "Potter" with which to contend.

Katzenberg was introduced by Goldman Sachs analyst Ingrid Chung, who called DWA "one of the best places to invest in media and entertainment, given its limited cyclical exposure and positive content cycle."

Chung said she's also bullish on DWA because it is "evolving into more than just a theatrical content company but into a brand."

That strong brand recognition will play well when it comes to initiatives like 3D movies and stage plays such as "Shrek the Musical," which is headed to Broadway.

Of the latter, Katzenberg said that it has the potential value of several movies. He called it "a show with a ton of heart," adding, "I think we've got a tiger by the tail."

As for 3-D, Katzenberg's support of the format is legendary. On Wednesday, he compared it to the introduction of talkies and then of color.

"I believe when people see what this presentation is in 3-D, it will be the third revolution," he said, referencing the 3-D version of "Monsters vs. Aliens" coming March 27 from DWA.

"This is the game changer our industry is looking for," he said.

As the CEO spoke, the stock market was plunging for the second time this week, but Katzenberg predicted that a weak economy won't negatively impact DWA or the movie industry in general.

"Both traditionally as well as recently, we have seen that our product is at worse recession resistant and, more optimistically and historically, has actually been recession proof," he said.

Particularly for families, "The single greatest price value of an entertainment experience is in your local movie theater," he said.
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