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Disney projects up to $190 million 'Lone Ranger' loss

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

By Lisa Richwine

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Walt Disney Co expects to lose between $160 million and $190 million on its expensive summer movie bomb "The Lone Ranger," the media giant said on Tuesday as it reported a small gain in quarterly profit that beat Wall Street forecasts.

The loss for "The Lone Ranger," a Western starring Johnny Depp, will be recorded for the quarter that ends in September, Chief Financial Officer Jay Rasulo said on a conference call with analysts.

Disney shares dropped 1.9 percent in after-hours trading to $65.79 from a $67.05 close on the New York Stock Exchange.

"Lone Ranger" opened July 3 with a dismal $29 million in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales over its first weekend.

"There has been a lot said, I know, about the risk of basically high cost, tent pole films," Disney CEO Bob Iger said, "and we certainly can attest to that given what happened with Lone Ranger."

"We still think the tentpole strategy is a good strategy," he said. "That one way to rise above the din and the competition is with a big film, not just big budget, but big story, big cast, big marketing behind it."

For the quarter that ended in June, operating income at Disney's film studio declined 36 percent as hit film "Iron Man 3" failed to match the spectacular success of last year's "The Avengers."

Overall, net income for the quarter rose 1 percent to $1.85 billion. Adjusted earnings-per-share reached $1.03, beating the $1.01 average forecast from analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Operating income increased at the company's theme parks and its media networks division, which operates sports channel ESPN.

"Overall it was a decent quarter, but nothing to get excited about," Wunderlich Securities analyst Matt Harrigan said.

A gain in fees and advertising revenue at ESPN helped lift operating income at Disney's media networks by 8 percent to $2.3 billion for the quarter.

At the parks unit, operating income increased 9 percent to $689 million as more people visited Disney's theme parks in Florida and California.

The interactive gaming unit posted a loss of $58 million. The company is counting on the August 18 release of its Infinity game to turn the unit profitable.

(Reporting by Lisa Richwine and Ronald Grover; Editing by Richard Chang, Bernard Orr)

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