Iger Says ‘Cinderella’ Beats ‘Casablanca’ for Studios

Walt Disney Co.’s family films like “Cinderella” have more lasting appeal than adult classics such as “Casablanca,” Chairman and Chief Executive Robert Iger said, outlining his strategy of focusing on franchise films.

Speaking yesterday at a luncheon in Beverly Hills, California, sponsored by the Hollywood Radio & Television Society, Iger explained the reasoning behind the $15 billion of film-company buyouts he’s made since 2005 and reducing Disney’s release slate by three-fourths from a decade ago.

“Today you can buy a ‘Cinderella’ or a ‘Snow White’ DVD, kids all over the world are still watching those,” Iger said, referring to films founder Walt Disney made in 1950 and 1937. “You can watch ‘Casablanca’ today and enjoy it thoroughly for what it is. But it’s not still on demand in certain places and in markets and marketable as much as it was.”

“Casablanca,” released in 1942 by Warner Bros., won the best-picture Oscar and ranked third among the top 100 movies of all time, according a 2008 list by the American Film Institute.

Disney, the world’s largest entertainment company, will release 10 films this year. That compares with 38 in 2003, according to researcher Box Office Mojo. Of this year’s 10, two are Marvel sequels, one is a Pixar sequel and two are based on classic stories, “Oz the Great and Powerful” and “The Lone Ranger.” Another film, “Saving Mr. Banks,” is an historical drama based on the making of a 1964 Disney hit, “Mary Poppins,” according to Disney press releases.

Disney, also the owner of theme parks and the ESPN cable network, gained 2.3 percent to a record $53.95 yesterday in New York. The stock climbed 33 percent in 2012, beating the 7.3 percent rise in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which includes Disney shares.

‘Relentless Choice’

Iger, 61, has acquired Pixar, Marvel Entertainment and Lucasfilm since taking over as CEO of Burbank, California-based Disney in 2005. The purchases brought the company established brands with international appeal that can be transferred into other products, from toys to TV shows, he said.

“In a sea of unbelievable choice, relentless choice, I do think that you have some advantage if you’ve got a good brand,” Iger said. “Our film strategy has largely evolved to basically branded films, franchise, branded films.”

He was interviewed onstage by film producer Brian Grazer.

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