‘Frozen’ drives profits as Disney beats estimates

The Disney Corporation yesterday reported second-quarter profits that beat analysts’ estimates, led by growth at its theme parks and continued sales of Frozen toys in a period that lacked a major movie blockbuster.

Earnings at the world’s largest entertainment company totalled $1.23 a share excluding some items. That compares with the $1.10-a-share average of analyst estimates. Sales rose 7% to $12.5bn (€11.1bn), above the $12.3bn (€10.99bn) projection.

Price increases in California and Florida helped boost profit at Disney’s theme parks by 24%. The company is benefiting from investments made during leaner years to attract guests who are spending more in an improved economy. Frozen merchandise sales drove a 32% rise in consumer-products profit, and bolstered a film unit whose biggest release was Cinderella.

“Frozen was once again called out in the consumer product segment, as well as studio entertainment,” said Benjamin Mogil, an analyst with Stifel Nicolaus.

“One of the main themes of Disney has been that its studio operations continue to be in a league onto themselves as evidenced by these results.”

Under chief executive Robert Iger, the company acquired Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm, and with a revived Disney Animation they’re providing characters that can be used for everything from theme-park attractions to pyjamas.

Frozen, released in late 2013, is still selling toys for the company, lifting results in consumer products as well as the film studio, which shares in revenue derived from its movies. Profit at the consumer-products unit rose to $362m, on a 10% increase in sales, to $971m.

The studio’s biggest new release was Cinderella, starring Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, and Lily James in the titular role. It has generated almost $495m at the global box office; up to Friday, it had earned over €1.7m at the Irish box office. However, it is no Frozen. Profit at the unit fell 10% from a year earlier, when the studio was churning out DVDs from Arendelle.

The company is releasing several major films this year, including Avengers: Age of Ultron. Debuting in US and Canadian cinemas at the weekend, it has already generated $191.3m, the second-largest movie opening of all time. The film has grossed $630m worldwide. After two weeks showing in Irish cinemas, the superhero-studded movie has earned over €2m.

Still to come this year are Inside Out, Pixar’s first film in two years, and Ant-Man, another Marvel spin-off. Later in the year, Disney releases its first movie from Lucasfilm, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Interest in that release is “unlike anything we’ve seen before”, according to chief executive Iger.


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