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Disney gets its movie business back, just in time

Rich Ross (L), Walt Disney Studios Presi

FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

The Muppets get a Hollywood Blvd. star — and Disney turns in a solid first quarter. The movie business is still weak, however.

Disney just reported first quarter earnings, and they were pretty good. But they repeated a trend at the company: gains on theme parks and with media, including ESPN and ABC, but losses on Disney Movie Studios. 

This is from Reuters:

The film studio recorded an $84 million loss in operating income on "John Carter," which cost $250 million to produce and millions more to market.

As in recent quarters, Disney earnings were boosted by its media unit, which includes the sports channel ESPN and ABC. Operating earnings in that unit increased 13 percent to $1.7 billion in the latest quarter.

Earnings at the theme park unit rose 53 percent to $222 million.

"You've got a parks recovery that's underway, and you have a cable network business that's best in class. It showed good growth on the top-line there," said Janney Montgomery Scott analyst Tony Wible...

"John Carter" basically cost former Disney Movie Studios head Rich Ross his job. At the moment, the studio has no leader. But the prospects for moneymaking have improved. Exhibit A: "The Avengers" laid waste to U.S. box office records this past weekend, with a $200-million opening.

Obviously, Disney isn't Disney without movies. And with properties like Pixar in the House of the Mouse, it's going to stay that way. But for the moment, it's other lines of business that are delivering the growth.

However, it's worth noting that as Disney's movie business picks up, the pressure will be on Ross's replacement to sustain the momentum. And that could be a tall challenge.

Follow Matthew DeBord and the DeBord Report on Twitter.

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