The Majors: Disney

Top pix: 'Finding Nemo,' 'Pirates'

In spite of the corporate woes at Disney, Walt Disney Studios, under chair Dick Cook and Buena Vista Motion Pictures Group prexy Nina Jacobson, has had hit written all over it in 2003.

Thanks to megablockbusters “Finding Nemo” and Johnny Depp swashbuckler “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” the Mouse House has had its most profitable year in recent memory and is riding high into 2004.

The biggest hit of 2003 for Disney was Pixar’s animated smash “Finding Nemo,” which has grossed over $339 million for the Mouse House, making it the highest-grossing pic of the year and seems likely to gain major kudos this award season.

Disney box office success also is bolstered on a morale level by it enjoying a stable production management regime in Cook and Jacobson.

“We feel really grateful to our filmmakers who gave their all on the movies this year and it shows,” says Jacobson, who is in her sixth year at the studio.

“Our marketing and distribution department just hit the ball out of the park on so many different types of movies and their teams really couldn’t have done a better job than they did.”

Jacobson, however, expressed disappointment with the performance of “Veronica Guerin,” Jerry Bruckheimer’s modestly budgeted portrayal of a murdered Irish journalist battling Dublin’s underground druglords. Joel Schumacher-helmed pic barely made a ripple at the B.O.

“It’s a movie I really wish had landed more with audiences,” she says.

Studio’s Eddie Murphy starrer “Haunted Mansion” also underperformed, grossing more than $54 million through three weeks.

Disney also looks to have a strong year in 2004 with Bruckheimer’s “King Arthur” epic starring Clive Owen, Wes Anderson’s “The Life Aquatic,” the Coen brothers’ “Ladykillers,” M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Village,” “Hidalgo” and John Lee Hancock’s “The Alamo.”

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