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Sony stoked by gadgets, film unit

Movie revenue up 5%

Consumer electronics and the film division were the sunniest spots on the balance sheet as Sony Corp. saw net profits swell to ¥73.7 billion ($641 million) in the second quarter from just $15 million a year earlier.

The movie studio reversed a previous downswing during the September quarter.

Vidgames, on the other hand, recorded a seventh consecutive quarterly loss. The pricey PlayStation 3 console may miss its sales target, the group announced Thursday.

The results appeared to please Wall Street. On a day when most media and entertainment stocks took a hit, Sony shares on the NYSE rose 6% to $47.98.

Sony Pictures revenue was up 5% at $1.65 billion, and the division swung to a quarterly profit of $23 million from a year-earlier loss of $133 million. That reflected higher grosses for theatrically released pics, notably “Superbad,” and higher revenue from sales of TV programming and from Sony’s international pay TV nets.

Holding back Sony Pictures results were the lower number of theatrical releases and the B.O. returns on “Across the Universe,” which at $17 million domestically have been respectable in a choppy fall marketplace but not so great given the film’s costs.

The games division saw revenues up 43% at $2.12 billion, but losses doubled to $841 million. Company said that losses reflected “strategic pricing of PS3 at points lower than its production cost.”

Faced with tough competition from games rival Nintendo’s innovative and cheaper Wii, Sony cut the U.S. sales price of PS3 by $100 to $499. Despite the introduction of the PS3, overall software sales were down. Sony sold 1.31 million PS3 consoles in the quarter and 10.3 million PS3 games.

Chief financial officer Nobuyuki Oneda said that the company may miss its target of selling 11 million PS3 consoles in the fiscal year ending in March. Sony will seek to break even in the games division during the fiscal second half, he said.

Meanwhile, at Sony BMG Music Entertainment, overall revenue continued to fall but the company narrowed its net loss to $8 million from $39 million a year earlier. Sales were $851 million vs. $948 million in the second quarter of 2006.

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