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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc's new film, "How to Train Your Dragon" took in a less than expected $43.3 million at the domestic box office in its opening weekend raising concerns of a 3-D film glut.
"We've all gotten our 3-D fix for the past month with 'Alice in Wonderland' and "Avatar' and the novelty factor is no longer as strong," said Michael Pachter, analyst with Wedbush Morgan, in explaining the family film's revenue shortfall in a weekend when many theater owners also introduced movie ticket price increases.
Analysts had expected "Dragon" to generate opening weekend box office revenues of about $65 million to $70 million.
Shares of DreamWorks, which in 2009 said it planned to release only eight films over the following three-year period, fell $3.56 or 8.32 percent to $39.27 a share.
"It was clearly a disappointing opening for 'Dragon', said Piper Jaffray & Co analyst James Marsh, who noted that despite positive reviews, DreamWorks appeared to miss the mark in promoting the film in the increasingly crowded 3-D market.
While James Cameron's 3-D epic "Avatar" has become the highest-grossing film of all time and Walt Disney Co's "Alice in Wonderland" is a huge success, various entertainment industry experts fear Hollywood's vision of releasing up to 60 3-D films in coming years is out of focus and wonder if ticket premiums are sustainable.
"Dragon" played on over 2,000 3-D screens but it competed with "Alice" for the coveted target 3-D viewing youth audience. And the upcoming release of Time Warner Inc's "Clash of the Titans" also has the potential to dent the international 3-D screen count and consumer appetite for "Dragon," said Marsh.
Nevertheless, some analysts believe the film's strong reviews will help it achieve the long-term box office target of over $500 million.
Pachter said he would be disappointed if he saw a very sharp drop off in the film's box office returns in its second weekend.
Marsh also believes the film will recover some lost ground, but that "Dragon" is unlikely to achieve his original total $522 million gross box office estimate.
"It appears the movie wasn't marketed appropriately and did not resonate with the core audience. I wouldn't be surprised, however, if it bounced back to some degree after getting off to a slow start," said Marsh who is now forecasting total gross office of about $300 million.
Editing by Bernard Orr