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Rank’s rocky ride

Leisure co. looks to unload Fla. theme park

LONDON — The Island of Adventure at Universal Studios Escape in Florida has proved a resounding flop since it opened last May, according to Rank Group, which owns 50% of the theme park.

Rank confirmed that the park’s profits slumped in the second half of last year, owing to hurricanes and people staying at home for the millennium.

The U.K. leisure company last week sold its two most visible film interests — Pinewood Studios and the Odeon cinema chain — and is seeking to offload its stake in Universal Studios Escape.

Sole link to film

That will leave the Deluxe film processing and video duplication operation as Rank’s only link to the film industry.

According to Rank chief exec Mike Smith, “Deluxe film was strong but Deluxe video was weak” in 1999.

The company managed a 23% increase in film footage processed, servicing such pics as “Star Wars: Episode One — The Phantom Menace,” “Eyes Wide Shut” and “The World Is Not Enough.”

But the lack of big video titles meant a 17% drop in the number of units duplicated by Deluxe.

Profits slip

Overall, Deluxe’s sales edged down 0.3% to £636 million ($1 billion), with operating profits slipping 1% to $134 million. Film sales grew 20% to $426 million, with profits up 23% to $76.8 million.

Sales in video dropped 11% to $592 million, with profits down 22% to $57.6 million. But the number of DVDs shipped by Deluxe rose from 8 million in 1998 to 30 million last year.

Universal Studios Escape saw its sales boom by 66% to $605 million, with Rank taking half of that figure on its balance sheet. But the park’s profits fell 22% to $67.2 million.

Odeon Cinemas, sold last week to Cinven for $448 million, increased sales 13% to $229 million, with profits up 15% to $36.8 million.

Pinewood, sold to a consortium headed by Michael Grade, saw its sales rise 15% to $24 million, and profits up 25% to $8 million.

Overall Rank’s sales were static at $3.27 billion, while net profit before exceptional items dropped 7% to $283 million.

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