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Pixar swimming in black

Fish phenom 'Nemo' powers 2Q profit

NEW YORK — Pixar’s one-fish wonder worked its financial magic on its creator’s bottom line, as Steve Jobs’ animation shop chalked up robust profit and sales growth for the second quarter ended June 30.

Having already helped shore up distributor Disney’s bottom line in the same period, “Nemo” mania propelled Pixar to more than double its revenues over last year to $48.9 million. Net profits rose to $19.5 million compared to $10.4 million a year ago when “Monsters, Inc.” was working its own foreign box office magic on Pixar’s income statement.

“Finding Nemo” has so far grossed $374 million at the B.O. worldwide, $260 million of which contributed to the second quarter tally, of which $26.3 million went to Pixar. Total film revenues for the quarter were $45.2 million, which included $14.9 million derived from library sales and $3.6 million from “Monsters, Inc.” Software licensing brought in $3.7 million, and the total revenue line was $49 million.

Company execs noted that “Nemo” has yet to open in 33 out of a total planned 68 territories, including many markets like the U.K. and Japan that will get the fish tale in late 2003. It estimates that total overseas box office for “Nemo” will come in at around $400 million.

Speaking to analysts on the conference call after the market closed Thursday, Pixar CEO Steve Jobs couldn’t help but gloat about his company’s stellar run. “Pixar is now five for five and will have earned over $2.1 billion worldwide,” said Jobs, who noted that, by contrast, Disney’s last four films generated a total of $661 million, and DreamWorks’ last four, $694 million.

Jobs urged some caution, however. “Nemo” is a “once in a lifetime (experience), so don’t expect it again,” said Jobs, who warned investors not to apply “Nemo” proportions to future film forecasts.

Nevertheless, Jobs said progress is good on upcoming releases: “The Incredibles” (Pixar’s first film with humans as main characters) for 2004, “Cars” in 2005 and a secret, as-yet-unnamed 2006 release, a teaser trailer of which will be released with “The Incredibles.”

Commenting on the status of its talks to negotiate a new distribution deal, Jobs reiterated his earlier position that while he would prefer to continue the Disney relationship, Pixar has talked with several studio suitors that are eager to match its terms. “If we can’t reach a deal, there are several studios anxious to market our films,” he said, citing Warner, Fox and Sony. “We know we can get the deal we want.”

Jobs also noted that time is on Pixar’s side and that with $500 million in cash and a debt-free balance sheet, it has considerable strategic and financial flexibility.