Mouse Profits Up Ten Perfect, Fueled by Fish

Could Steve Jobs negotiating position with the Walt Disney Company be any stronger? The head of Pixar Animation Studios is currently re-working Pixar’s deal with Disney, while making noises that he’ll take the CGI giant to another studio if he doesn’t get good terms. Now comes the official word that Disney’s much improved third-quarter 2003 profit-picture has largely been fueled by the revenues from the smash hit Finding Nemo ($315 million domestic box office, to date which, by the way, is on its way to eclipse the legendary Lion King). Disney said yesterday that its third quarter net income rose to $400 million, up from $364 million a year ago.

Because of Nemo and the theme park-based Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Disney’s distrib arm Buena Vista Pictures is set to sail past the $1 billion domestic box office mark this weekend, the second fastest time to that level in industry history. (Sony Pics holds the record. It broke the billion mark last year in mid-July).

With Nemo’s success, it’s a sure thing Disney CEO Michael Eisner will do whatever it takes to keep the Pixar co-prod deal going for years to come. Among other things, Pixar and Disney currently split the profits from Pixar-produced fare (Toy Story, Monsters Inc., etc). Jobs wants to have an arrangement similar to George Lucas’s with Fox, where that studio gets a flat distrib fee for each Star Wars title.