Box Office Fear: Family Film Pileup, Fatigue May Extend to Spring

Dreamworks Animation

DreamWorks Animation's "Mr. Peabody & Sherman," Disney's "Muppets Most Wanted" and "Rio 2" all hit within weeks of each other -- even as Jeffrey Katzenberg admits "audience fatigue" slowed this summer's "Turbo."

This story first appeared in the Aug. 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Another dangerous game of chicken is taking shape at the box office.

Despite a crunch of family films this summer, studios aren't ready to rearrange their release calendars to put more distance between next spring's offerings. Opening in the wake of Pixar's June hit Monsters University ($613.5 million worldwide) and Universal's megahit Despicable Me 2 ($713.4 million worldwide), DreamWorks Animation's Turbo and Sony's The Smurfs 2 are both underperforming in North America. And on Aug. 5, longtime DWA marketing chief Anne Globe stepped down. (Veteran marketing execs Dawn Taubin and Mike Vollman have been rumored as replacements.)

DWA CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg tells THR that tying Globe's exit to Turbo "in any fashion, shape or form would be incredibly unfair to Anne." Instead, he says, "Post-July Fourth, there's been a level of audience fatigue that we've never seen in the movie business."

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The forecast for the spring is just as ominous. DWA's Mr. Peabody & Sherman opens March 7 via Fox, followed two weeks later by Disney's sequel Muppets Most Wanted and two weeks after that by Fox's Rio 2.

Katzenberg says he's "very happy with those dates, even knowing the competition," and both Disney and Sony, which is hoping for bigger international numbers on Smurfs 2, have no plans to shift upcoming release dates. Says Sony vice chairman Jeff Blake, "There are no changes planned on our side, but we're always reviewing the competition to get the optimal dates on all our films."