Disney earnings rise despite "John Carter" loss

Tue May 8, 2012 8:22pm EDT
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By Lisa Richwine and Ronald Grover

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Walt Disney Co's quarterly earnings beat Wall Street expectations as profit rose 21 percent despite a loss from the science fiction film bomb "John Carter."

Strong attendance at theme parks and higher advertising revenue at cable networks, including sports powerhouse ESPN, helped drive quarterly growth.

The earnings report followed a massive opening weekend for "The Avengers," a superhero movie that set an industry record with ticket sales of $207.4 million over its first weekend. An "Avengers" movie sequel is in the works, Chief Executive Bob Iger told analysts.

The company's film studio needed a hit after "Carter," a $250 million production that dragged the company's studio unit to an operating loss of $84 million for the fiscal second quarter. Studio chief Rich Ross stepped down April 13 after the film flopped.

Despite the studio loss, Disney posted fiscal second quarter earnings of $1.1 billion and a 6 percent increase in revenue to $9.629 billion.

Adjusted earnings per share rose 18 percent to 58 cents. Analysts on average had expected 55 cents.

As in recent quarters, Disney's earnings were boosted by its media unit, which includes ESPN and ABC. Operating earnings in that unit increased 13 percent to $1.7 billion in the latest quarter.

Visitors kept filling Disney theme parks, and the Disneyland resort in California set a second-quarter attendance record, Chief Financial Officer Jay Rasulo said. Earnings at the theme park unit rose 53 percent to $222 million.   Continued...

A portion of the signage at the main gate of The Walt Disney Co. is pictured in Burbank, California May 7, 2012. REUTERS/Fred Prouser