Disney's 'Lion King' and Other 3D Rereleases Won't Enrich Jeffrey Katzenberg


Disney has unearthed a new revenue stream, but not everyone will be tapping it.

This story first appeared in the Oct. 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter.

Following the surprisingly successful rerelease of The Lion King in 3D -- $110 million-plus worldwide and counting -- the studio will reissue 3D versions of Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast during the next two years, and anyone who had profit participation in the originals should see additional dollars. That doesn't mean everyone who worked on them gets a taste; instead of participation, animators often get bonuses when a movie hits certain defined numbers at the box office. But this doesn't include reissues because studios usually define them as new releases, exempt from any bonus formulas.

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And there's one other industry big shot who might be less than delighted: Jeffrey Katzenberg. As the studio chief behind such movies as 1989's Mermaid and 1994's Lion King, he rejuvenated Disney animation. Canned by boss Michael Eisner just weeks after King's opening, Katzenberg sued for his contracted 2 percent in future profits; after a high-profile legal dispute, he settled the case for a reported $280 million. Given the new rereleases, did Katzenberg end up leaving money on the table?

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The exec's in-perpetuity deal included not only a cut of theatrical box office but also ancillary revenue from merchandising, Broadway plays and other tie-ins -- all of which gets goosed when a film is trotted out. "He sold out cheap," says one industry veteran. "You're talking about hundreds of millions of dollars [in revenue from those films]. Two percent of that is a lot of money. Whatever you pay at a particular point in time is going to be dwarfed by what comes in later." Nevertheless, he says Katzenberg did as well as he could.

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Analyst Harold Vogel concurs that since Katzenberg got all that money at once in the late '90s, it ended up having greater purchasing power. That $280 million, he says, would be the equivalent of about $350 million today. Still, given the creative legacy he bequeathed to an unappreciative Disney, Katzenberg surely is entitled to a little griping about the circle of life.

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