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Walt Disney profit jumps 21% despite 'John Carter' flop

May 08, 2012|By Dawn C. Chmielewski, Los Angeles Times
  • Disney's theme parks, including Disneyland, above, were strong performers in the second quarter.
Disney's theme parks, including Disneyland, above, were strong… (Lawrence K. Ho, Los Angeles…)

Overcoming its disastrous film flop "John Carter," Walt Disney Co. reported strong quarterly earnings, helped by robust television and theme park income, and forecast a rosy future with plans for a sequel to its current hit, "The Avengers."

Disney posted quarterly net income of $1.14 billion, or 63 cents a share, a 21% increase from a profit of $942 million, or 49 cents a share, a year earlier. Revenue rose 6% to $9.6 billion for the second quarter ended March 31 compared with the same quarter last year.

The film studio, though, posted an operating loss of $84 million for the quarter, reflecting a $200-million write-down associated with the sci-fi adventure film "John Carter."

The big-budget flop, released in early March, has so far brought in about $271 million worldwide — far less than the more than $400 million it cost to make and market. After the picture's release, Walt Disney Studios Chairman Rich Ross was fired and has not yet been replaced.

Disney Chairman and Chief Executive Robert A. Iger focused his remarks on the record-breaking box-office performance of "The Avengers," made by the company's Marvel Entertainment unit.

The film brought in more than $207 million in its first three days of release in the U.S., and has grossed $702 million worldwide in its first two weeks. The results will be reflected in Disney's third quarter.

"It's a great illustration of why we like Marvel so much: great characters, great storytelling, and the wonderful ability for them to bring their characters and stories to the big screen so effectively," Iger said.

The compelling superhero characters who make up "The Avengers" — including Iron Man, Thor and Captain America — were introduced to moviegoers in earlier films, setting the stage for the tremendous success of the film in movie theaters and fueling strong merchandise sales, Iger said.

Iger also sought, in the wake of the management turmoil at the Disney studio, to trumpet the strength of the upcoming film slate, including "Brave," featuring Pixar Animation Studio's first female hero, which reaches theaters June 22, and Tim Burton's stop-motion movie "Frankenweenie," due out in the fall.

Disney's Media Networks television group remains the company's cash cow, reporting operating income of $1.7 billion for the quarter, up 13% from a year earlier. Results were fueled by the continued strength of two of its cable television brands, ESPN and Disney Channel.

The sports network continues to expand its distribution on new platforms and now reaches 40 million subscribers on mobile devices.

Disney Channel, meanwhile, is the company's brand ambassador, available in 167 countries.

ABC Family notched its eighth consecutive year of growth, resulting from the popularity of such original series as "Pretty Little Liars."

Theme parks and resorts showed the most substantial gains. Operating income rose 53% to $222 million in the quarter, reflecting increased attendance and spending at Disney's domestic parks and improved results from the Tokyo Disney Resort, which closed for three weeks because of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Iger said the company's investments in the parks are paying off. He singled out Disney California Adventure in Anaheim, where a 12-acre Carsland, inspired by the Pixar film "Cars," is set to open June 15. He said the attraction represents the culmination of the expansion that started with Toy Story Midway Mania, Little Mermaid and the Spectacular World of Color.

"I believe the completion will result in a park that will stand on its own but also serve as an important and worthy neighbor to Disneyland and finally enable the two to become the destination resort we once envisioned," Iger said.

dawn.chmielewski@latimes.com

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