Kushner-Locke finds profit in its Search

Conglom posts $4.8 mil in earnings

Kushner-Locke Co. said it swung to a net profit of $4.8 million for its fiscal 1999 ended in September — from a loss of $6.3 million the year before — due mainly to proceeds from the sale of a piece of its US SEARCH.com subsidiary in an initial public offering.

Kushner-Locke recognized a $13.1 million gain from the IPO of the online company last June as well as another $21 million gain as it boosted its net investment in US SEARCH as a result of the offering.

Excluding those one-time gains, the results weren’t so rosy. The company lost $23.9 million from operations compared with earnings of $357,000 the year before. Revenue at the consolidated company plunged 34% to $50 million, reflecting reduced TV series production and decreased availability of feature films. That decline was partly offset by growth at US SEARCH, where revenue soared to $6.2 million in the fourth quarter from $1.8 million in the same period in 1998.

Focusing on the Web

TV and film projects were partly put on hold, co-chairman Peter Locke said, to focus on the “late-stage incubation of US SEARCH.com.” Unique visitors to the US SEARCH.com Web site jumped to 11.2 million in the September quarter from 4.6 million six months earlier — in the quarter ended March, 1999.

Co-chairman Donald Kushner said the Los Angeles company wants to combine its TV and film experience with new technology as it establishes strategic relationships with many key players on the Internet, including Yahoo!, AOL, Go Network, Lycos and others.

Film contributed $14 million to revenue. The group delivered three features in its last fiscal year: “One Man’s Hero” with Tom Berenger distributed domestically by MGM; “Ringmaster,” with Jerry Springer, released by Artisan Entertainment in November of 1998; and “But I’m A Cheerleader,” scheduled for release by New Line.

The company said it has completed principal photography on “Picking Up The Pieces,” with Woody Allen, Sharon Stone and David Schwimmer, as well as on “The Nest” and “The St. Francisville Experiment.” The company said it’s preparing for principal photography on “Vlad the Impaler.”

The company’s shares rose 34% to close at $5 — still well below their 52-week high of $21 last spring.

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