December 1, 2014 / 3:13 AM / 3 years ago

Dreamworks' 'Penguins' opens below forecasts

Actor John Malkovich, who voices "Dave", poses with the character "Skipper" at a press line for the movie "Penguins of Madagascar" during the 2014 Comic-Con International Convention in San Diego, California July 24, 2014. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

(Reuters) - Dreamworks Animation’s latest film, “Penguins of Madagascar,” opened below expectations over the Thanksgiving weekend.

The film, which was distributed by Twenty-First Century Fox’s Fox studio, generated $36 million in ticket sales over the five-day weekend, according to box office tracking service Rentrak.

Hollywood experts had predicted sales of $47 million, according to the site Box Office Mojo.

Dreamworks recently explored combining with Softbank or Hasbro following its latest flop, “Mr. Peabody & Sherman,” earlier this year, its third underperforming film in three years.

“We certainly underperformed our own tracking,” said Chris Aronson, Fox’s president of domestic distribution, who said the studio forecast ticket sales in the low-$40 million range. “But we have a clear playing field ahead of us until we face the next family film.”

On Dec. 19, Sony opens the musical “Annie” and Fox releases “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb,” both rated PG.

The weak performance of “Penguins” might be attributed to a weaker than expected Thanksgiving box office, said Aronson, who said the film registered strongly in surveys with younger viewers.

The film could pick up steam in the next few weeks as Disney’s animated hit “Big Hero 6” slows, said Rentrak senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian. Disney’s film collected $26 million in its fourth weekend in theaters, said Rentrak.

“Penguins” may also benefit from a strong foreign market for U.S. films, Aronson said on Sunday. The film has totaled $61.8 million overseas so far, according to Rentrak.

Dreamworks recorded a $59.2 million impairment charge earlier this year, primarily the result of a weaker than expected performance by “Mr. Peabody & Sherman,” the company said in its financial statements.

It wrote down $86.9 million for “Rise of the Guardians” in 2012 and $13.5 million for “Turbo” last year.

In September Dreamworks unsuccessfully negotiated an acquisition by Japan’s Softbank and it briefly discussed a merger with toy company Hasbro in early November, according to press reports.

A Dreamworks spokesman had no comment on “Penguins.” Dreamworks previously had refused to comment on the reported takeover discussions.

Reporting by Ronald Grover; Editing by Phil Berlowitz

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