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Monday, April 06, 2009

Doesn't Wall Street Have Better Things to Worry About?

For each of the last four Pixar films, Wall Street analysts have worried about their appeal in some way: can cars be expressive enough... will anyone relate to a rat who works in a restaurant... can a half-silent film about a trash-compacting robot connect with kids?

Now, they're fretting about 'Up,' whose main character is a 78-year old man. From today's NY Times piece:

    Some industry watchers, a few of them still griping about the hefty $9 billion that Disney paid for Pixar in 2006, are fretting about the film’s commercial potential, particularly when it comes to benefiting other Disney businesses.

    Richard Greenfield of Pali Research downgraded Disney shares to sell last month, citing a poor outlook for “Up” as a reason. “We doubt younger boys will be that excited by the main character,” he wrote, adding a complaint about the lack of a female lead.

    Mr. Greenfield is alone in his vociferousness, but not in his opinion.

    “People seem to be concerned about this one,” said Chris Marangi, who follows Disney at Gabelli & Company. Doug Creutz of Cowen and Company said qualms ran deeper than whether “Up” will be a hit — he thinks it will — but rather whether Pixar can deliver the kind of megahit it once did.

    “The worries keep coming despite Pixar’s track record, because each film it delivers seems to be less commercial than the last,” Mr. Creutz said.

While I have been critical in the past about Pixar's reluctance to experiment with new forms and formats for animation (Internet stuff, mobile phones, interactivity/gaming, etc.), I don't think it makes sense to worry about their ability to produce big hits ... hits that often do great on the merchandising and theme park front.

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  • Their biggest ROI animated film was The Lion King in 1994. They have been trending downwards since then. Ever since their peak with NEMO in 2003, PIXAR has been trending downward with almost 10:1 gross against budget. CARS did have a net AFTER it went to international sales. WALL-E was less than 3:1 gross against budget - if you include the huge P&A and look at the probable net, you are looking at a film that might have even lost money. BOLT definitely lost money. Maybe even a lot. I do see a cause for concern on this trend if you are a stockholder.

    By Blogger GBH, at 2:41 PM  

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