Disney's rise bouys entertainment sector

HOLLYWOOD — In the first two weeks of 2003, media stocks have posted results that would be considered pretty darn good for an entire year.

Bullish analyst reports over the holidays have pushed Disney and Vivendi Universal up 11.3% and 15.2%, respectively, since Jan. 1. The strong performance by Disney, a Dow Jones Industrials Index component, is generally viewed as helping to buoy the entire entertainment sector.

AOL Time Warner, also a bellwether media conglom, is up 13.6% for the year as investors become more comfortable about its overall corporate strategy and, perhaps more importantly, as the advertising market shows signs of revival during the coming year.

General enthusiasm

Generally upbeat presentations from all media congloms last week at the Salomon Smith Barney media conference in La Quinta, Calif., seemed to reassure analysts and investors. Blockbuster shares, as an extreme example, soared 12% in one day after a rosy presentation from topper John Antioco.

MGM, the closest company to a pure play on the movie business, is up 6.9% for the year, reflecting the record box office in general and the strong showings of its James Bond tentpole “Die Another Day” and the low-cost, high-grossing “Barbershop.” Company’s upcoming slate features several sequels and inexpensive commercial pics starring young thesps with franchise potential.

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