‘Aladdin’ lights up Disney’s 2nd quarter

Disney’s fiscal second-quarter earnings were sent soaring on a magic carpet.

The Walt Disney Co. reported record earnings and revenues for the period ended March 31, in large part from the tremendous success of the animated feature “Aladdin.” The film is the studio’s highest domestic grossing movie ever with $ 200 million since its release in November.

The film’s performance, along with the video release of “Pinocchio,” helped soften the blow from Euro Disney, which produced a $ 44 million loss for the quarter.

Net earnings for the period were $ 204.9 million (38 cents a share), up 25% from $ 164 million (31 cents) in the same quarter last year. The performance in 1992 included a $ 35 million charge for ending Disney’s lease on the Queen Mary/Spruce Goose hotel and attraction in Long Beach.

Operating income grew 50% to $ 908.9 million, from $ 620 million.

Revenues for the period jumped 24% to $ 2 billion from $ 1.6 billion in the comparable quarter.

Euro Disney surprises

Analysts expected earnings to be 3 cents lower, in large part because of Euro Disney.

“We anticipated Euro Disney would lose them more than it did,” said Margo Vignola, a media analyst at Salomon Bros. “The irony was, we expected more than a $ 50 million loss — it was $ 44 million.”

Operating income for the theme parks and resorts segment rose 45% to $ 163.7 million on a 4% increase in revenues of $ 775.9 million.

Filmed entertainment operating profits also climbed 84% to hit $ 156.7 million, vs. $ 85.4 million in the comparable period. Revenues were up 45% to $ 929.8 million. “Aladdin” and the homevideo version of “Pinocchio” led the surge, but foreign box office from “Beauty and the Beast” and “Sister Act” helped.

Consumer products up 18%

Consumer products profits were up 18% to $ 86.2 million, on a $ 34% increase in revenues to a record $ 320.7 million.

The outlook continues to look bright. For one reason, “Aladdin” goes to video in October.

But Disney acknowledges one thorn that will continue to hurt earnings. The company noted that the theme park will “sustain a substantial loss for the fiscal year.” As a result, it said the continued losses and spending on the park is leading both Disney and Euro Disney to look at new sources of financing.

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