Walt Disney Studios President 'Extremely Focused' on International Growth

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Alan Bergman

"China could be an $8 billion marketplace in the next several years, so if we make the right kind of movies that they like, then you can see that multiplier expanding," the exec stated on Wednesday

Walt Disney Studios president Alan Bergman swore his allegiance Wednesday to movies that will appeal to international audiences, and, in particular, China.

"China could be an $8 billion marketplace in the next several years, so if we make the right kind of movies that they like, then you can see that multiplier expanding, and we do believe we have the brands and are extremely focused on those markets," Bergman said at Bank of America's 2014 Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference in Beverly Hills.

"There's no question that international is the growth area for the studio, and China is obviously the biggest component of that. In 2012, their box office was $2.7 billion, last year it was $3.6 billion and this year it will be well over $4 billion," he said. "They're by far the biggest international market with over 20,000 screens already, and they're building like 18 screens a day."

He added: "The most important thing is making great movies here that play around the world."

Later, Bergman responded to a conference attendee who was curious whether box-office bombs The Lone Ranger and John Carter made up some of their losses in home video or other ways by saying John Carter was a big hit in Russia, though he added: "It didn't get that much better. We did lose that much money on those movies."

The executive said that while Disney is "not immune from flops," it minimizes its risk by releasing branded, tentpole films.

Probably the most anticipated upcoming example is Star Wars: Episode VII, due Dec. 18, 2015. The exec promised not only a great movie but a creative marketing campaign, and again he touted the international opportunity.

"What we've seen looks amazing. It's hard not to get too excited about this," he said. "I'm wearing my Stormtrooper tennis shoes. We are just unbelievably excited at the company to have Star Wars. And the other thing I should mention is, it's not really just here. We are looking at every single country around the world, because they obviously have different levels of awareness, different strategies as to how characters appeal or don't, and we're making sure we have a definite strategy to maximize this movie, because this is going to be a big, global hit."

Email: Paul.Bond@THR.com

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