From left to right: "Mortadelo y Filemón contra Jimmy el Cachondo," Paddington," "Astérix-Le Domaine des Dieux," "Penguins of Madagascar"
From left to right: “Mortadelo y Filemón contra Jimmy el Cachondo,” Paddington,” “Astérix-Le Domaine des Dieux,” “Penguins of Madagascar”

The DreamWorks brand continues its free-fall in the United States. Penguins of Madagascar opened below all expectations, earning just $25.8 million over the three-day weekend, and $36 million over the extended five-day holiday. For another studio, this might have been a decent opening, but not for what was once considered to be an animation powerhouse that delivered constant hits.

Thirteen of the last fifteen DreamWorks films have opened better than Penguins, which was directed by Eric Darnell and Simon J. Smith. The only two weaker openings: Turbo and Rise of the Guardians. It’s also the worst-opening ever for a DreamWorks franchise property; the previous low had been Puss in Boots which opened with $34.1M in 2011.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. For starters, despite Penguins’s middling critical and audience ratings, it should continue to be a strong choice for families throughout the holiday season.

Entertainment industry site Deadline, which for reasons unknown has adopted an almost comically pro-DreamWorks Animation stance in recent months, implored DreamWorks stockholders not to dump their DreamWorks stock:

Again, holiday moviegoing is a marathon, not a sprint (so DreamWorks Animation shareholders, don’t go freaking out tomorrow trying to unload stock. Just calm down. Animated films aren’t dead from their opening weekend).

The other silver lining: Penguins of Madagascar will pull in respectable numbers internationally, where audiences have not yet tired of the predictability of the DreamWorks brand. This weekend, Skipper, Kowalski, and crew pulled in $36 million from 44 territories, including $8.23M from Russia, a $4.63M No. 1 opening in Italy, a $1.24M No. 1 opening in Malaysia, and a $1.04M No. 1 opening in Singapore.

However, the Spanish box office matchup we’d written about earlier between DreamWorks’s Penguins and classic Spanish comic book stars Mort & Phil went in favor of the bumbling Spanish spies. Final numbers haven’t been released yet, but Rentrak indicates that the Javier Fesser-directed Mortadelo y Filemón contra Jimmy el Cachondo landed in second place behind the latest Hunger Games installment, while Penguins came in third place.

Mort & Phil was made at a fraction of the cost of Penguins; it’s a wake-up call to American studios that foreign animated features can not only take on American films, but beat them at local box offices.

That takes us to France, where the CGI Astérix: Le domaine des dieux, directed by Louis Clichy and Alexandre Astier, launched in second at the Gallic box office with a respectable $5 million. Hunger Games was first with $5.3 million in its second weekend.

In the UK, the live-action/creepy-CG hybrid Paddington, directed by Paul King, debuted with a powerful $8.5 million. It’s still unknown if it will land in first or second, but the film launched better than Frozen, and the first installments of Despicable Me and How to Train Your Dragon. Future Paddington installments are now likely.

The other big American animated feature in the marketplace—Disney’s Big Hero 6—continues to perform exceptionally well in the United States. The film grossed $18.8M over the three-day, off just 6.7% from the previous weekend, and $26.1M over the five-day. For its 4th weekend, it finished in third place, behind The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 and Penguins of Madagascar.

The Disney/Marvel pic has now grossed $167.2M in the U.S. Overseas, the film grossed a much smaller $4.8M from 25 territories. The film has only opened in around one-fifth of its foreign markets, and major openings are on deck for December and January. It has grossed $56.9M internationally to date.

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