'Wrestlemania' falls outside first quarter numbers

World Wrestling Entertainment is being forced to take a fall before it can put on its financial victory belt.

Talk about bad timing: The 25th anniversary of “WrestleMania” may have been a major moneymaker for WWE, but the April event won’t help the company’s bottom line until the second quarter. As a result, the wrestling org was forced to report a 47% drop in profits during the first three months of the year.

WWE earned $10.3 million from revenue of $107.8 million. That was off from the $162.6 million collected during the year-ago period. Analysts had expected a haul of around $120 million.

Its lucrative live events and TV biz fell to $64 million, down from nearly $99 million earned a year ago. The 36% drop is due primarily to plummeting ad rates and a reduction in ticket prices in order to attract more audiences during a down economy.

Box office from the Renny Harlin-helmed actioner “12 Rounds” wasn’t included in the earnings report, as the WWE-financed pic was released March 27. Quarter ended March 31.

That may be a good thing, considering the Fox Atomic-distribbed pic underperformed, earning $15.3 million worldwide so far. It was produced for around $20 million and will need a strong showing on DVD to recoup the rest of the costs.

WWE topper Vince McMahon said during a conference call that it’s likely the company will no longer produce pics costing as much as $20 million going forward. It is currently producing a slate of theatrical and cheaper direct-to-DVD pics.

Company’s licensing and merchandising arm also was pummeled, with revenue down 24% to $33 million as consumers are keeping a grip on their wallets during the recession. Its online biz, which includes a store, earned $6.9 million, down 15%, affected by falling Internet ad dollars.

Yet WWE stressed that despite its losses during the first quarter, the results reflected the company’s cutbacks in operating expenses that helped increase profit margins.

It can also look forward to counting the coin it collected from “WrestleMania 25,” held April 5 in Houston.

Event took in $52 million, besting the haul of the previous year, when “WrestleMania 24″ drew some $31 million.

Broken down, pay-per-views generated most of the event’s revenue, with $43 million, while WWE grossed $7.4 million from ticket sales, selling out Houston’s Reliant Stadium, with nearly 73,000 spectators, and hosted a nearby fanfest. It moved $1.5 million in merchandise.

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