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'Aladdin' Becomes a $200-Million Genie for Disney : Movies: Studio's all-time top-grosser is the first animated feature to reach the box office milestone. And in its 23rd week of release, there still is no end in sight.

April 21, 1993|DAVID J. FOX | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Walt Disney Co.'s animated musical fable "Aladdin" passed the milestone $200-million mark at the U.S. and Canadian box office Tuesday night.

A hefty number. But what does $200 million mean?

* Only 13 movies since 1975 have generated more money in ticket sales--and none of them has ever been an animated film. The last $200-million-plus movie was 1991's "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, which has a box-office gross of $204.8 million to date.

* Based on statistics from the Motion Picture Assn. of America and the insights of film industry analysts, a $200-million-grossing movie means 50 million movie tickets have been sold. That's the equivalent of one fifth of the U.S. population.

(Box-office analyst A. D. Murphy of the show-business journal Variety figures a per-ticket average of $4 for "Aladdin," which factors in the unusual number of children's tickets and matinee prices for adults. Ordinarily, the national average for tickets is $5.05.)

* Those 50 million moviegoers bought an estimated $75 million in candy, popcorn, soda and other concession-counter products. The figure is based on an updated estimate of average spending from the National Assn. of Concessionaires.

* Of the $200-million gross generated during its 22 weeks of release, the nation's theater operators have earned about $94 million.

* Of the $200-million gross, Disney earned a profit of about $61 million, after the $25-million cost of producing the movie and the $20-million cost of prints and advertising are subtracted.

(The industry average for prints and advertising is $12.5 million, but observers agree that Disney spent heavily to sustain the nationwide theatrical release for an exceptionally long 22 weeks--17 weeks of which the film was among the Top 10 grossing pictures.)

And with "Aladdin" in its 23rd week, even though business has slowed considerably, there still is no end in sight. If reaching U.S. and Canadian box-office heights was Disney's first wish come true, then, as with the tale of Aladdin's magic lamp, two more wishes will be fulfilled: conquering the international box office and the videocassette market.

Bet on it happening, analysts say.

"Most movies don't make this much (profit), even after theatrical runs around the world, let alone simply in the U.S.," said film business analyst Lisbeth Barron, of Warburg & Co. in New York, referring to the estimated $61 million. "This is obviously a standout."

Barron cited the potential for "substantial numbers" from the foreign release of the film, which won't even begin until summer, at the earliest, and then in only a few markets. After that, there's the video market.

In recent years, international box-office grosses on hit movies usually surpass the U.S. and Canadian numbers. With that in mind, Barron said "Aladdin" could bring in a gross of $250 million from the international markets.

Conservatively, analysts are estimating Disney will be able to sell at least 13 million videocassettes for resale, at $9 a unit--another $117 million to the company. That optimism is based on the fact that last year's videocassette release of the studio's "Beauty and the Beast" sold about 18 million copies.

There will be additional revenue from product licensing and album sales of the musical score.

Barron estimated the profits on "Aladdin" from all sources over the next few years will be between $200 million and $250 million.

Disney will not comment on the dollar amounts and is mum about its plans for "Aladdin." But many who watch the company closely believe that it will release "Aladdin" on videocassette, perhaps by late autumn, in time for Christmas.

"Clearly, for this company, we're going into unchartered territory," said Disney distribution president Richard Cook. "Aladdin" surpasses the studio's previous box-office champ, 1990's "Pretty Woman," which grossed $178.4 million in the United States and Canada.

In some ways the scale of the current achievement is comparable to that of Disney's first feature-length animated film, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," which defied the odds and became a blockbuster hit in 1937--grossing $8.5 million in its initial theatrical run.

"As a company, this is something we've only dreamed of," Cook said.

One way to grasp the extent of "Aladdin's" success is by comparison to other animated projects. "Even if you look at the best of the rest," said Jeffrey Logsdon of Seidler Amdec Securities in Los Angeles, "nothing comes close, except Disney's own." The studio's "Beauty and the Beast" in 1991 grossed $145.8 million, while Universal Pictures' release of "An American Tail" in 1986 grossed just $47.5 million and 20th Century Fox's "FernGully--the Last Rain Forest" in 1992 managed a meek $24.6 million.

*

Beyond the box-office and videocassette sales, Cook noted the potential for multiple side benefits. "Already, there are Aladdin-themed parades at both the company's U.S. theme parks. . . . It's very difficult to ever quantify a success like this."

For Disney the "Aladdin" results are a payoff of a four-year project that involved the craft of more than 600 artists. The success of the G-rated "Aladdin," said Logsdon, "clearly should alert filmmakers that there is just as large of a market for family entertainment as for any other flavor, brand or variety."

Free-lance writer Charles Solomon contributed to this story.

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