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November 05, 2002|Claudia Eller | Times Staff Writer

Pixar Animation Studios on Monday reported its largest quarterly profit in the company's history thanks to strong home video and DVD sales of its latest blockbuster film, "Monsters, Inc."

The Emeryville, Calif.-based company reported a net profit of $46.9 million in the third quarter, more than seven times the $6.2 million it netted a year earlier. The profit in the latest quarter was 87 cents a share, beating Wall Street estimates, compared with 12 cents in the same period a year ago.

Pixar's revenue for the three months ended Sept. 28 jumped dramatically to $102.5 million, up from $11.3 million in the same quarter last year.

Because Pixar's revenue and profit are cyclical and depend on the timing of its new movie releases and video/DVD launches, the company's year-to-date results can show significant swings. A year ago, Pixar was between movies, just before the release of "Monsters, Inc.," which was a huge box-office hit with more than $530 million worldwide.

Under its current five-picture deal with Walt Disney Co., Pixar splits revenue and profit and the two companies share all production and marketing costs.

In the most recent quarter Pixar sold 25 million home videos and DVDs of "Monsters, Inc."

Based on its strong third-quarter results, Pixar raised its earnings estimates for the full year to between $1.50 and $1.55 a share, up from $1.25 to $1.35 a share it previously projected.

On a conference call with analysts, Pixar Chairman Steve Jobs, who also is the chief executive of Apple Computer Inc., said Pixar's "business model we set in motion years ago is working very, very well."

Jobs skirted questions about the ongoing uncertainty surrounding Pixar's future partnership with Disney and his strained relationship with Disney Chief Executive Michael Eisner.

Pixar owes Disney three more movies under the current deal, which means the companies will be in business at least through 2005.

As soon as Pixar delivers its next film, "Finding Nemo," this spring, Jobs will be free to cut a deal with another studio if he chooses. It is widely known that he favors an arrangement in which Pixar would retain more of the profit.

"There are a lot of leadership and structural changes going on ... at Vivendi Universal, AOL Time Warner and those rumored at Disney," Jobs said in an interview. "We have the luxury of seeing how that all plays out."

Jobs said that like any long-term relationship Pixar's partnership with Disney has had the usual "ups and downs."

And what about his relationship with Eisner? "Let's talk about that next year," he said.

Pixar shares rose $2.35 to $55.30 on Nasdaq. Pixar's shares have climbed 54% this year. The news was released after the market closed.

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