Disney Quarterly Earnings Exceed Expectations as Bob Iger Touts Marvel, 'Star Wars'

Bob D'Amico/ABC
Bob Iger

The chief executive calls 'Cinderella,' due next month, "a stunningly beautiful film."

Walt Disney beat financial expectations by announcing Tuesday it earned $1.27 per share in its fiscal first quarter on $13.4 billion in revenue while analysts were predicting $1.07 per share on revenue of $12.9 billion.

Disney shares were up 2 percent on Tuesday to $94.05 but shot up another 3 percent after the closing bell when the financial results were released.

All five of Disney's reporting segments showed an increase in operating income, with consumer products and studio entertainment leading the way with gains of 46 percent and 33 percent, respectively.

As for revenue, the studio was down 2 percent and the interactive segment was off 5 percent, while the other three segments — media networks, parks and resorts, and consumer products — each reported higher revenue.

The studio showed higher operating income on lower revenue because of strength in home entertainment, with healthy sales of Guardians of the Galaxy, Frozen and Maleficent. By comparison, in the year-ago quarter Disney's home entertainment offerings included The Lone Ranger, Monsters University and no Marvel release.

The earnings report comes as Disney battles some negative publicity in its theme park business. Disney CEO Bob Iger confirmed during a conference call Tuesday that the opening of Shanghai Disneyland has been delayed until spring 2016. That news comes after a recent (and ongoing) outbreak of measles in the U.S. was traced back to Disneyland in California.

Iger said during an appearance Tuesday on CNBC, though, that the company hasn't seen any drop in attendance in the current quarter due to fear of measles, and in the fiscal first quarter, which ended Dec. 27, there was obviously no impact (the outbreak wasn't made public until Jan. 7). The parks and resorts segment showed a 9 percent increase in revenue and 20 percent surge in operating income.

During Tuesday's conference call, Iger boasted of upcoming theme park experiences based on Star Wars, Marvel and other franchises.

As for the studio, Iger touted Avengers: Age of Ultron, opening May 1; Tomorrowland, starring George Clooney and opening May 22; Ant-Man, starring Paul Rudd, opening July 17; Pixar's The Good Dinosaur, opening Nov. 25; and Cinderella, which opens March 13. Iger called Cinderella "a stunningly beautiful film."

Iger also enthusiastically endorsed Frozen Fever, a seven-minute short that will play at theaters in front of Cinderella. It's based on Disney's blockbuster animated feature Frozen and it will feature a new song.

The CEO also said that an online teaser trailer for Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens, scheduled to open Dec. 18, has been viewed 123 million times so far. Iger even said he's open to a Disney-branded online streaming service revolving around Star Wars and Marvel movies.

Disney will provide content to Dish Network's upcoming Internet offering, Sling TV, and when asked Tuesday about that initiative and streaming services in general, Iger said: "We think we have that opportunity with a Disney branded service. We may have an opportunity with a Marvel-type product and possibly even Star Wars."

He added, though, that he is mindful of the value of the cable TV bundle so it might not be worth it to disrupt that business model too much further, at least in the near term.

Email: Paul.Bond@THR.com

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