Q&A: Jeffrey Katzenberg

DreamWorks Animation CEO talks 'Shrek,' recession

The Hollywood Reporter posed a few questions to DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, who rang the Nasdaq opening bell Thursday in New York to celebrate the debut of the company's stock there after moving over from the New York Stock Exchange.

The Hollywood Reporter:
"Shrek the Musical," which started here in town this winter, got good reviews, but ticket sales have been weak. What happened?

Jeffrey Katzenberg: Our holiday season was strong. The last two weeks of January were soft, to say the least -- for everybody, but particularly for us, because we really weren't doing discounting the way other shows were, certainly shows that have been around for a while. As a new show, we didn't think that was the right thing to do. These last three weeks, the trend has been very, very strong. Last week was the third-biggest week since we opened.

THR: Does the recession play a role?

Katzenberg: We are certainly being affected by the economy the way everybody here in Broadway is. It's a challenging time. But people love the show. Word-of-mouth is fantastic. We are still confident that it is going to work.

Any idea how long the show will run?

Katzenberg: It runs as long as people buy tickets -- hopefully forever.

THR: Are you expecting to turn a profit on the musical?

Katzenberg: We are in it to make money. When you succeed here on Broadway, it is an extremely profitable business. There is also value in brand building. But that's not why we are here. That's an ancillary value.

THR: No profit right now, right?

Katzenberg: No, we just opened recently. We have a ways to go. By midsummer, we'll have a pretty good sense of how it is playing. Then we'll assess (things).

THR: Any more plays planned?

Katzenberg: We want this one to work. All of our focus is on making "Shrek" a success. Once that happens, we'll look at what the next opportunity is.

THR: How is the rollout of 3-D movie screens going?

Katzenberg: It looks like for "Monsters vs. Aliens," there will be just over 2,000 screens available domestically and probably about 1,200 internationally. The domestic is less than I had originally hoped for a year ago -- that was 3,000-4,000 screens. That's where the financial meltdown and the credit market has brought everything to a halt. But those 2,000 screens are more than enough to have a great benchmark for us to see how effective this is going to be. For proof of concept, it's more than enough. And internationally (in the U.K., France, China and Australia especially), it is actually better than we thought it would be.