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DreamWorks CEO Seeks Fourth ‘How to Train Your Dragon

May 17 (Bloomberg) -- Jeffrey Katzenberg, chief executive officer of DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc., wants to extend the “How to Train Your Dragon” series to a fourth film. His director, Dean DeBlois, isn’t on board yet.

“He always saw this as a trilogy,” Katzenberg said yesterday at a press conference at the Cannes Film Festival, where “How to Train Your Dragon 2” made its debut. “And the only thing that we actually have disagreed about is whether he can succeed in telling as much of a story as he has in the third of the trilogy. I think it’s going take two movies to do it, and he thinks it’s going to take one.”

“How to Train Your Dragon 2” opens worldwide next month, and a third film is set for 2016. The new release is crucial for DreamWorks Animation after subpar ticket sales for “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” in March. Since “How to Train Your Dragon” came out in 2010 and collected almost $500 million in theaters, the studio’s biggest pictures have been sequels.

With the popularity of the first film, based on the 11-book young-adult book series by writer Cressida Cowell, Katzenberg is hopeful his studio, now 20 years old, can squeeze out another sequel.

“I say he can’t get it done in 95 minutes,” Katzenberg said at the conference, joined by DeBlois and cast members Cate Blanchett and America Ferrera, with fans outside donning Viking helmets handed out to promote the film. “He’s been hard at work on the script of that, so that will remain to be seen.”

“How to Train Your Dragon 2” is forecast to produce U.S. and Canadian sales of $78 million in its opening weekend starting June 13, and $298 million in its full domestic cinema run, according to Boxoffice.com.

Worldwide Estimate

Ben Mogil, an analyst at Stifel Financial Corp., projects worldwide box-office sales of $563 million. That sum is shared with theaters, along with 21st Century Fox Inc., which collects a fee for distributing DreamWorks Animation pictures.

The film, which picks up the story of the Viking Hiccup and his dragon friend Toothless, is one of the company’s more expensive features. In July, executives of the Glendale, California-based studio said it would cost close to the $145 million spent on “Mr. Peabody & Sherman.”

DreamWorks Animation rose 4.4 percent to $25.21 yesterday in New York. The stock has retreated 29 percent this year.

Three of the last four films from DreamWorks Animation were box-office disappointments. In April the company announced a $57 million writedown on “Mr. Peabody & Sherman.” Officials said at the time they would reduce future production costs to about $125 million per picture.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anousha Sakoui in London at asakoui@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Anthony Palazzo at apalazzo@bloomberg.net Rob Golum

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