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Disney Profit Tops Estimates as Hit Films Spark Studio

Angelina Jolie in a scene from "Maleficent," Walt Disney Co.’s live-action twist on the animated classic “Sleeping Beauty.” Source: Disney via AP Photo

Walt Disney Co., becoming as famous for Marvel superheroes as for Mickey Mouse, posted third-quarter profit that beat analysts’ estimates, fueled by box-office hits.

Net income rose to $2.25 billion, or $1.28 a share, from $1.85 billion, or $1.01, a year earlier, Burbank, California-based Disney said yesterday in a statement. That beat the $1.16-a-share average of 28 analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Disney, the world’s largest entertainment company, had two of the biggest films for the quarter that ended June 30, with Marvel’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Maleficent,” according to Box Office Mojo. “Guardians of the Galaxy,” also from Marvel, opened last weekend with $94.3 million in U.S. and Canadian theaters, the best ever for an August release.

“People said it came out of nowhere because those characters were not well known,” Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger said of the latest film, in an interview with Bloomberg Television yesterday. “The title was not well known, but the Marvel brand has become something that, at least in the consumer’s eyes, really means something and should be trusted.”

Revenue increased 7.7 percent to $12.5 billion, surpassing the $12.1 billion estimate, Disney said.

‘Frozen’ DVDs

Operating income at the film studio more than doubled to $411 million, the biggest gain among the company’s five divisions. “Frozen,” the hit 2013 movie, continued to deliver profit in home video and international theaters.

Disney’s consumer products unit, which also benefits from Marvel-themed products, posted a 25 percent rise in profit to $273 million, while revenue grew 16 percent.

The acquisitions of Marvel in 2009 and Lucasfilm in 2012 has brought to Disney new material to attract teenage boys to its films, as well as characters for its toys, TV networks and theme parks. The film studio is well positioned for at least the next five years, Iger said.

The results were strong across most of Disney’s businesses, according to Kannan Venkateshwar, an analyst with Barclays Plc.

“While the media networks business was roughly in line with our estimates, the company’s parks, studio, consumer products and even interactive businesses showed strength,” Venkateshwar wrote in a research note.

Theme Parks

Disney gets the bulk of its profit from its TV division. Operating income at the unit, which includes ESPN, ABC and the Disney Channel, was little changed at $2.3 billion, as sports programming costs increased. While ABC earnings increased, profit at the much larger cable operation fell 7 percent because of higher costs at ESPN, the sale of a U.K. unit at ESPN and the shift in the timing of some revenue.

Profit at Disney’s parks increased 23 percent to $848 million, with attendance and guest spending up at its domestic resorts. The company raised daily admission prices at its Magic Kingdom park in Orlando, Florida, twice in the past year, to $99 from $89, and benefited from the later Easter holiday, which pulled business into the quarter. Disney also is in the second year of introducing electronic wristbands that make purchases easier in the parks.

The interactive unit, which makes video games, reported a profit of $29 million, compared with a year-earlier loss, fueled by sales of the company’s Infinity gaming system.

Disney’s shares fell 0.2 percent to $86.59 at the close in New York today, giving them a gain this year of 13 percent.

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