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Mouse man strikes up band

Disney looks inhouse for hit pix

Disney is putting its money on Disney.

Mouse House prexy Bob Iger said at a conference Thursday that the conglom will focus more of its resources on the family friendly, and more successful, line of Disney-branded pics and away from more adult-friendly Touchstone pics, which have fared poorly at the box office recently.

“We plan to shift spending on live action, directing 50% or more toward Disney-branded titles,” said the conglom’s No. 2 exec. “Some of our best films have been Disney branded.”

Such recent Disney releases as “The Princess Diaries 2,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” and “Freaky Friday” have generated strong numbers while Touchstone pics like “The Alamo” and “Hidalgo” have been disappointments.

Displaying the conglom’s allegiance and interest, exec pointed only to several upcoming Disney-branded pics as ones for which he has high hopes, including “The Shaggy Dog,” “Pirates of the Caribbean 2” and “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”

He added that Disney will be focused more on controlling costs and generating high profitability in its pics rather than posting the biggest B.O. numbers.

Iger spoke alongside Disney chief financial officer Tom Staggs at the Merrill Lynch Media and Entertainment Conference in Pasadena. It’s the second major presentation Iger has made this week, following news earlier this month that Michael Eisner will ankle in September 2006 and that Iger’s both the only internal candidate for the job and Eisner’s preferred successor.

Exec didn’t comment on the transition issues except to say that he didn’t think there would be any “lame duck” effect from Eisner staying on after announcing his coming resignation and, as is expected, after a successor is named by next June.

In London on Wednesday, Iger said a renewal of the studio’s partnership with Pixar is unlikely (Daily Variety, Sept. 30).

In the wake of Comcast’s failed takeover of the Mouse House and the cable operator’s deal to take a stake in MGM and add content from the Lion and Sony to its VOD offerings, Staggs said Disney is looking to make more of its content available for video-on-demand.

“We’re in discussions with Comcast and Time Warner to make more programming available in VOD windows,” he commented. “We will be offering MSOs and others more content for their VOD offerings. It’s a good thing for content owners and distributors.”

He added that Disney’s Moviebeam service, which delivers digital pics to a set-top box over the airwaves, remains in limbo as the Mouse House decides whether to integrate it into other manufacturers’ set-top boxes, into PCs or continue with its own devices. Moviebeam is available in only three cities.

Execs also reiterated Mouse House’s fiscal projections, including a reduction in earnings for the quarter ending Sept. 30 of 1¢ per share due to the Florida hurricanes. Iger added that theme park attendance in Florida during the final quarter of the year could be affected by the storms as well.

(Cathy Dunkley contributed to this report.)

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