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Buena Vista Breakdown

HIGH POINTS: Profits came from animated films and Walt Disney Pictures. Tim Burton’s stop-motion animation project “The Nightmare Before Christmas” held its own (and may herald a new genre of full-length animated features) despite skepticism. Produced for $ 10 million, “Son-in-Law” grossed $ 36.4 million and provided one of the biggest returns on investment in studio history. Budgeted at $ 11 million, “The Joy Luck Club” provided solid returns and artistic credibility for Hollywood Pictures. “Tombstone” gunned down $ 16.8 million in just nine days of 1993 release.

LOW POINTS: Summer was unbearable for Disney Studios, which rolled out such duds as “Father Hood””Life With Mikey” and “Money for Nothing.” Contributing to the disappointing summer were the bigger-budgeted propositions “Another Stakeout” and “Hocus Pocus.” The second half was devoid of an animated theatrical musical release, which in turn leaves Buena Vista Intl. and Buena Vista Home Video without a showcase ancillary title for 1994. “Bound by Honor” was a creative risk that fizzled.

OUTLOOK FOR ’94: Disney is poised for a quick start with the Jan. 14 release “Iron Will” (affectionately dubbed “‘White Fang’ with words” at the studio) and the kiddie caper “Blank Check,” which many at the studio believe will clear $ 60 million in domestic box office gross.

THREE OUT OF SEVEN AIN’T BAD: Disney pundits say there are seven surefire hits entered into the summer fray: the animated “Lion King,” the Caravan/Touchstone pairing of Julia Roberts and Nick Nolte in “I Love Trouble,” Penny Marshall directing Danny DeVito in “Renaissance Man” and four movies from competitors: Fox’s “True Lies,” Universal’s “Flintstones” and WB’s “Maverick” and “Wyatt Earp.” Also in the summer, BV’s “Terminal Velocity” with Charlie Sheen is reported to have some aerial parachute stunts that are beyond belief.

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Director Robert Redford’s “Quiz Show” will receive a prestigious release in the fall, gain momentum into the winter and turn up on year-end best-of lists.

MOST FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTION OUTSIDE OF THE TEAM DISNEY BUILDING: What’s going to happen to Hollywood Pictures?

DISNEY’S ANSWER TO THE MOST FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTION: Status quo. Despite numerous disappointing releases from the Sphinx label, Disney’s five-year-old startup only needs a couple of strong years to grow a cable-ready asset worth millions.

“We’ve had some good years and some lousy years,” said Hollywood topper Ricardo Mestres. “But 1994 is going to be consistently strong, and 1995 is already promising to be our best year ever with movies such as ‘The Scarlet Letter’ with Demi Moore, ‘Judge Dredd’ with Sylvester Stallone, ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ and ‘Evita’ with Oliver Stone. We’re working toward a Stanley Cup season.”

OVERLOADED OR LOADED FOR BEAR: When the acquisition of Miramax Films was announced, Walt Disney Studios chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg said BV could release between 50 and 60 movies annually. Early in the campaign, Disney insiders have already compared marketing all those movies to practicing triage, so it may prove difficult for Disney to keep up the steady pace throughout 1994.

“I think the market can withstand whatever we’ll be able to put out there this year,” said Walt Disney Pictures/Touchstone president David Hoberman.

NOT OVER AND NOT OUT: Disney financed Tim Burton’s “Nightmare Before Christmas,” the upcoming Chris Elliott farce “Cabin Boy” and his dark directorial work “Ed Wood” before watching the “Batman” director return to work at Warner Bros. Despite being painfully passed over, Disney is inches away from greenlighting Burton’s stop-motion animation adaptation of “James and the Giant Peach” and is anxious to welcome back the man who made “Frankenweenie” on its lot. Hoberman said Disney was “disappointed that we were unable to come to terms with (Burton), but I hope and am confident we’ll be making more movies with him in the future.”

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