DreamWorks Animation to Cut 500 Jobs, Release Fewer Films

“I am confident that this strategic plan will deliver great films, better box office results, and growing profitability across our complementary businesses,” says CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg

DreamWorks Animation will release two films per year, down from three, and cut approximately 500 jobs across the board in a restructuring of its core feature animation business, the company announced Thursday.

As part of the restructuring, top brass including Dawn Taubin, the studio’s marketing chief, Vice Chairman Lou Coleman and COO Mark Zoradi are leaving the company. The studio currently employs around 2,200 staff members and the cuts would make up about 18% of its workforce.

Over the past year, Jeffrey Katzenberg‘s company has seen “How to Train Your Dragon 2” hit $618 million at the worldwide box office, while “Penguins of Madagascar” and “Mr. Peabody and Sherman” failed to meet expectations. The latter forced a $57 million write down in April, and last year’s “Turbo” and 2013’s “Rise of the Guardians” also sank deeply into the red.

Earlier this month, veteran producers Bonnie Arnold and Mireille Soria were named co-presidents of feature animation, replacing Bill Damaschke, who exited as the studio’s chief creative officer.

Going forward, the studio will release two films per year, one original and one sequel, starting with “Home” on Mar 27. “Kung Fu Panda 3” (Mar 18, 2016), “Trolls” (Nov 4, 2016), “Boss Baby” (Jan 13, 2017), “The Croods 2” (Dec 22, 2017), “Larrikins” (Feb 16, 2018) and “How to Train Your Dragon 3” (Jun 29, 2018) make up the current slate. “Captain Underpants,” produced outside the studio at a significantly lower cost, is scheduled for an unspecified release date in 2017.

“Despite having one of the best creative teams in the world, we believe that our efforts to make three films each and every year was just too ambitious and has led to inconsistent performance,” Katzenberg said on a conference call with the media and analysts. “To that end, we are embarking upon a restructuring of our feature animation business that will allow us to deliver great movies, great box office and great profitability.”

In another cost-cutting measure, the studio’s Northern California campus will be consolidated into its Glendale location.

“The number one priority for DreamWorks Animation’s core film business is to deliver consistent creative and financial success,” said Katzenberg in a statement. “I am confident that this strategic plan will deliver great films, better box office results, and growing profitability across our complementary businesses.”

As part of the restructuring, DreamWorks Animation will incur a $290 million charge, as disclosed in an 8-K filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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