Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues — and continues. Paramount‘s sequel, which sees the old KVWN news team helping launch a 24-hour cable news channel, is returning to theaters next week. But it’s not your standard reissue. The marquee-clogging Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues: Super Sized R Rated Version clocks in at two hours-plus and boasts the newly raunched-up rating. And if you believe the studio, it also features “763 entirely new jokes”. (Is that one of them?) “When my editor told me we had a whole different version of the movie that was more than two hours long with nearly 800 new jokes, I was shocked,” writer-director Adam McKay said in the release. “But when Paramount said they were actually going to put it in theaters, I did a 1950s spit take. If you’re a hardcore Anchorman fan go see this. If you’re not, stay very far away.” The flick starring Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate and Paul Rudd has banked more than $125M domestically since its December 18 release, which was preceded by a marketing blitz that made many feel like they’d seen the thing before it came out.
UPDATE, 2:25 PM: DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg has put away his pom-poms for 3D — and the higher ticket prices he has urged exhibitors to charge for it. He says that DreamWorks Animation will offer 2D versions of its films in addition to 3D because “we remain sensitive to the fact that we’re in a stressed economy bordering on a recession.” He admits that he’s “probably somewhat to blame” for the market’s overly optimistic expectations for 3D. Prospects for the technology are “in flux,” he says. But investors have become too pessimistic. His company’s commitment to 3D represents ”one of the best returns on investment of anything that DreamWorks Animation has done.”
Katzenberg won’t discuss his plan to offer online streaming rights to his films exclusively to Netflix: “We’re going to take a pass and punt on this one today. Lots of gossip and rumors and things going on. I’d prefer to take a no comment on this.” As for Kung Fu Panda 2, the CEO says it was “a terrible, terrible calamity” that the film came out in the U.S. the same week as The Hangover Part II. ”This is the first time we met a buzzsaw,” he said. The competition sliced about $20M from the expected box office sales for the animated film, he says. “It’s heartbreaking because there’s no recovering from it.” But he adds that “nowhere else in the world did this happen to us.” Indeed, while KFP2 “didn’t meet our expectations” domestically, it remains “a solid, profitable film” and “a valuable franchise.”
Nothing to report on DreamWorks’ talks to renew the distribution agreement with Paramount that expires at the end of 2012. Katzenberg says he won’t “answer a question that doesn’t have to be answered yet.” He adds that he’s unfazed by Paramount’s decision to ramp up its animation following its recent release of Rango. That film “had zero impact on us and our relationship with them.” Paramount’s plan “reaffirms the value and appeal of animation.”
DreamWorks shares initially soared more than 7% in after-hours trading. By the end of the analyst call they were up 4.3% over Tuesday’s $21.57 closing price.
PREVIOUS, 1:17 PM: DreamWorks Animation reported 2Q net income of $34.1M, up 42.1% vs the same period last year, on revenues of $218.3M, up 38%. Profits at 40 cents a share matched analysts’ consensus forecast. But the revenue number was higher; the Street expected $197.1M.
EXCLUSIVE: To overhear Jeffrey Katzenberg’s private conversations these days, Comcast supposedly wants to buy DreamWorks Animation and make him head of NBC Universal. But at last week’s Camp Allen — Sun Valley’s annual Alllen & Co investment conference attended by the Who’s Who of tech, Internet, entertainment, and media industries — Comcast’s Brian Roberts and Steve Burke were telling a very different story. They mentioned to several power players that Katzenberg has been pursuing them to buy DreamWorks Animation and lobbying them to make him head of NBCU. (“Because they’re the new guys in town,” one of my sources explains. “Even though Steve and Jeffrey never got along when they both worked for Disney.” Burke, the son of former Capital Cities/ABC president and icon Dan Burke, spent a dozen years in key Walt Disney Co positions before quitting in 1998 to go to work for Comcast.) I heard that the Comcast guys told various Camp Allen bigwigs that they aren’t interested in DWA or Katzenberg — emphasizing that Burke is going to be very hands on with NBCU.
I’ve been hearing that Jeffrey already has offered up DWA to every Hollywood studio, but they and their parent companies have passed. Before Comcast, the most recent “no” came from Time Warner’s Jeff Bewkes. Meanwhile, DWA has two years to go on its distribution deal with Paramount but also an “out” clause after 10 films. Then again, Katzenberg can always obtain DWA’s freedom by buying out Paramount’s deal share himself.
A decade after their short runs, Judd Apatow’s cult series Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared are getting another shot on IFC. The cable channel has acquired all 18 produced episodes of the NBC dramedy, created by Paul Feig and produced by Apatow, and all 17 segments of the Fox comedy, created and produced by Apatow, from Paramount Pictures, which holds the rights to the two DreamWorks TV series. Freaks and Geeks premieres this Friday, while Undeclared will debut in the fall featuring a previously unaired episode. The two series helped break a slew of young talent, including Jay Baruchel, Jenna Fischer, James Franco, Seth Rogen and Jason Segel.
Apparently it’s news to The New York Times — though to no one else in Hollywood – that there may be friction when Paramount and DreamWorks try to unentangle themselves. What’s a better story the newspaper could have written for Thursday’s edition? That DreamWorks can finally shop itself around starting May 1st. Or that Steven Spielberg has the right to terminate his contract as soon as October, if David Geffen is no longer there, even though the producer-director’s pact on paper goes to 2010. (Even Dreamworks Animation has an “out” clause after 10 films.) But I’m really surprised that the newspaper of record doesn’t know what I know: that Spielberg has the right to elect to be involved in any project that DreamWorks has developed at Paramount. As an ex-Paramount business affairs source once told me, Steven’s so-called “Amblin deal” would apply even if he chooses to leave and is no longer under contract. He’d still make 7.5% of the gross and 50% of the profits to cash break. And if it’s decided the projects won’t be made, they have to be offered to Steven in turnaround. So, tell me, given the choice that if he stays he’s paid nothing, and if he goes he’s paid a lot, who in their right mind would think Spielberg sticks around?