Smooth Sailing For Viacom

HAS VIACOM'S SHIP FINALLY come in? On Apr. 29, it posted gains in first-quarter cash flow, revenue, and pretax earnings, surpassing Wall Street's expectations. A big boost came from Titanic, a joint production of Viacom's Paramount movie studio and Twentieth Century Fox. Even better, the earnings report indicated a turnaround at Blockbuster. In the quarter, the movie rental unit's same-store revenue was up 10%, its cash flow, up 6%, and total sales rose by 13%, to $930 million. The chain is benefiting from new distribution deals with studios that reduce the cost of videos and stock Blockbuster stores with more copies of current releases.

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