They're not pressed like peers

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DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg on Thursday touted his company's solid performance and position amid a global recession and unveiled a summer release of "Madagascar 3" as part of his firm's 2012 slate.

At the company's investor and analyst day, Katzenberg highlighted DWA's lack of significant dependency on advertising and subscription businesses. "(This) clearly sets us apart," he said, adding that even in a difficult economy, CG-animated family fare remains a profitable business.

Analysts have cited DWA's pure-play entertainment focus as a key reason its stock has held up better than most. DWA shares on Thursday finished at $23.47, not far from their 2007 close of $25.54.

Still, Katzenberg said DWA is treading carefully: It has cut back on travel and postponed the addition of a recording studio.

Also, COO Ann Daly said the recession is having a "dramatic impact" on DVD sales and pricing across the industry but that DWA is holding up better than its peers. Better margins help offset lower unit sales, she said.

Katzenberg told the Wall Street crowd at the venerable Ziegfeld movie theater that his team has focused to address the company's biggest challenge: consistency. He cited the success of its three franchises — "Shrek," "Madagascar" and "Kung Fu Panda" — as evidence the company has made clear strides. He also said "Monsters vs. Aliens," DWA's only theatrical release next year, has a story line that allows for sequels.

President and CFO Lew Coleman said that DWA has positioned itself for earnings growth in 2009 and 2010, even though next year only features one new release.

Katzenberg finished his presentation with three well-received 3-D clips from "Monsters," set for a March 27 bow.

He also again touted the upside potential for 3-D. With consumers looking for bargains, "the greatest value and bargain that exists today is going to your local theater," adding that value via 3-D will strengthen that proposition.

He added that 3-D is about winning back people who spend more time on home-based entertainment. Thus, 3-D "couldn't be more timely for the business," Katzenberg said.

While the digital-cinema rollout remains less robust than he would like, there will be about 2,500 screens set up for digital and 3-D in time for "Monsters," enough to make it a solidly profitable film and a test case for the industry, he said. Asked about possible collaborations with Steven Spielberg, Katzenberg said he would like to win over his former partner to the animation side and have him make a movie for DWA. (partialdiff)
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