Walt Disney results beat forecasts on strong movie earnings

Fireworks light the sky over Cinderella Castle during the Grand Opening of New Fantasyland at Walt Disney World Resort Walt Disney's theme parks did better than expected

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Walt Disney has reported higher profits for the first three months of 2013, with a 10% rise in revenue.

The media giant increased its revenues at its sports network ESPN and reaped the box office success of its movie "Oz the Great and Powerful".

The company's net income rose 32% from a year earlier to $1.5bn for the three months to the end of March.

Revenue at its theme parks division climbed by 14%, substantially better than analysts' expectations.

Overall revenue for the group was up by 10%, helped by a 13% increase in revenue from its movie studios and a 6% rise at ESPN.

"People have been looking for parks to really step it up. We saw them really step it up in this quarter,'' said Barton Crocket, an analyst with brokerage Lazard Capital Markets.

Disney slashed investment in its parks by nearly 50% to $1.1bn in the first six months of its financial year. By doing that, analysts hope that the company will have more cash to return to investors by means of share buybacks.

A new hope

There is also hope that Disney is set for a major earnings boost from the revival of the Star Wars movie franchise after it acquired Lucasfilm last December for $4.06bn.

Disney has said it is planning to release a new Star Wars film every year from 2015 and, in a bid to cut costs, it has outsourced the making of the related video games to Electronic Arts.

The profit numbers for Disney's next quarter will include the earnings from the movie "Iron Man 3", which has already grossed $711m worldwide since its launch in late April.

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