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Disney’s BVI hits $1 billion gross

Mouse House scores o'seas for the 5th consecutive year

Although Disney’s corporate performance has been getting bad press lately, the company delivered gilt-edged good news Wednesday when it announced its overseas theatrical arm has cracked the $1 billion gross mark — for the fifth consecutive year.

That’s an industry record and testimony both to the studio’s firepower from in-house productions and several high-profile acquisitions, plus the continued expansion of the international marketplace as multiplexes keep mushrooming in Europe and Latin America.

Buena Vista Intl.’s releases hit $1,011,500,000 through last Sunday, and the distrib seems certain to post a company record in calendar 1999, surpassing 1997’s $1.253 billion.

“More than likely we will cross the 1997 record,” said BVI president Mark Zoradi, surveying his year-end line-up led by the Arnold Schwarzenegger actioner “End of Days” (which goes out everywhere overseas within three weeks of the Nov. 24 domestic launch) and “Toy Story 2” (rolling out initially in Asia and Latin America).

‘Tarzan’ tears it up

That’s on top of tearaway business by “Tarzan” (which just touched $100 million) and “The Sixth Sense,” plus “Runaway Bride” which bows in French-speaking markets early next month.

In all, 39 BVI titles each have grossed more than $1 million thus far, and four have minted $100 million-plus.

Zoradi is confident “Tarzan” (which debuts in Japan mid-December during the key Shogatsu holiday season) will eventually climb to north of $250 million, which would rank as Disney’s second-highest animated grosser in history, behind “The Lion King’s” $455 million.