Sony Pictures' Full-Year Profit Rises to $628 Million, But Pandemic Downturn Looms

Kenichiro Yoshida - Getty - H 2019
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Revenues at Sony's film and TV division climbed to $9.32 billion from $8.87 billion in the previous fiscal year. Overall profit at Sony Corp. fell 36 percent.

Sony Corp. executives reported the Japanese conglomerate's full fiscal-year earnings in central Tokyo on Wednesday, offering a look at where its business stood just before the coronavirus pandemic began to bite.

Sony's film and television unit, Sony Pictures Entertainment, recorded operating profit of $628 million, up from $489 million the year prior, while annual profits at Sony Corp. overall were down 36 percent to $5.34 billion (?582 billion). Revenue at Sony Pictures climbed to $9.32 billion from $8.87 billion the year prior. Group revenues slid 5 percent to $75.7 billion (?8.26 trillion).

Sony said the revenue increase for the pictures group was "primarily due to higher worldwide theatrical revenues, as the latest fiscal year benefitted from the strong performances of Spider-Man: Far From Home, Jumanji: The Next Level and Bad Boys for Life and higher licensing revenues for television productions." 

The reporting period spans April 2019 through March 2020. Movie theaters in North America and many markets of Europe began to shut down in response to the novel coronavirus in late March, while cinemas in Sony's native Japan didn't close until April. 

Sony estimated that the coronavirus reduced its consolidated operating income at the group level by $623 million (?68 billion) over the full-year period. The conglomerate's electronic products unit, financial services division and imaging hardware business bore the brunt of the pandemic's blow. The gaming, pictures and network services units were calculated to have gotten a minor benefit from the global coronavirus response thanks to an uptick in content consumption. 

Like many major studios, Sony declined to offer detailed financial guidance for the pictures division for the current fiscal year due to uncertainty related to the coronavirus outbreak. A forecast for Sony Corp. earnings overall was withheld as well.

Sony did, however, lay out its "current view regarding the impact on the business from the spread of COVID-19." The company said box office revenue has been hurt by the closure of cinemas around the world and new film and TV productions have been stalled by restrictions on people's movements. As a result, Sony Pictures' "theatrical revenues and revenues generated after theatrical release, including home entertainment and television licensing sales, are expected to decrease."