NEW YORK — It’s still too early to call Walt Disney the Mouse that roared — and to say that topper Michael Eisner’s job is secure — but it is fair to say the struggling entertainment company had one of its best weeks in quite awhile.
On Sept. 17, the same day that investors were griping about weak earnings and a dismal stock price at a meeting in Gotham, consumers were running out to buy “Monsters Inc.” on video and viewers were tuning in to ABC’s new Tuesday night lineup in solid numbers.
The animated pic, produced with Pixar, had a record debut, selling 5 million video and DVD copies in one day and ringing up $85 million. It beat the previous first-day sales record — also set by Disney with “The Lion King.”
The Mouse House vigorously milked this unusual spurt of positive news.
“There is something for everyone in this DVD, making it a must-have for anyone’s library,” gushed Eisner.
And he’s got reason to gush wherever possible: Several board members and large Disney investors have been agitating for him to step down.
Still, some industryites accuse the Mouse of goosing sales figures thanks to their ownership of Disney stores.
The same night, Disney’s ABC network scored respectable ratings performances with three new shows, “8 Simple Rules for Dating My Daughter” with John Ritter, “Life With Bonnie,” with Bonnie Hunt, and “Push, Nevada,” a series created by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. “8 Rules” was a strong lead-in, drawing more viewers than almost any other new ABC series to kick off the night in 10 years.
Observers caution that the TV season doesn’t officially start until this week, so ABC was up against reruns on most networks except Fox. But with the Alphabet net in critical condition — and blamed in large part for the Mouse’s current woes — it was oh so good for Disney that the shows didn’t bomb. Congratulations, Susan Lyne.
Now, if President Bush would just tone down that war talk, perhaps ailing theme parks could turn around as well. And Disney, which has a stronger cash position than Vivendi Universal and cleaner books than AOL Time Warner, won’t be the company investors love to hate.