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 under performed 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.