‘Rogue One’ propels Disney to historic $7B mark

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story has pushed Walt Disney Studios to rare planetary air: It’s the first studio to take in more than $7 billion at the box office globally.

After the weekend’s box office grosses including a $290 million global debut for Rogue One, Disney had hit $6.998 billion for the year — $2.7 billion in the U.S. and nearly $4.3 billion internationally, the studio said Monday.

“This historic achievement is possible because all of our film studios are bringing their absolute best to the table, telling great stories of all kinds that resonate with audiences across borders, gender, and generations,” said Alan Horn, the studio’s chairman in a statement.

Among Disney’s hits in 2016: the Marvel Universe films Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange, Pixar’s Finding Dory, Disney animated films Moana and Zootopia, and Disney live-action film The Jungle Book. Also adding to Disney’s 2016 take: Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which debuted in December 2015, but has earned more than one-third (about 37%) of its $2 billion global total in 2016.

“These films work because each one has not only something for everyone, but everything for someone,” Horn said. “It’s our honor to be able to create these experiences for audiences, and we’re thankful to them for continuing to come out to the theater with us.”

Last year, as the U.S. box office set a new all-time high of $11 billion, Universal set a new global box office high of $6.89 billion, driven by Jurassic World, Furious 7 and Minions). Also, Disney’s $5.85 billion also surpassed the 2014 global box office studio record of $5.5 billion set by 20th Century Fox (X-Men: Days of Future Past, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, How to Train Your Dragon 2).

Although there’s been much concern about declining viewership at Disney’s sports TV powerhouse ESPN, Disney’s potential company-wide performance led Bank of America Merrill Lynch research analyst Jessica Reif Cohen to reiterate a Buy rating with a price target of $125.

Disney (DIS) shares closed Monday up 1.3% at $105.30.

“We believe (Disney) offers an increasingly solid catalyst pipeline for upside potential,” she said in a note Monday to investors, through fiscal year 2018, which ends in October 2018.

In addition to growth at theme parks and resorts, Disney has “a solid Studio outlook with blockbuster-level visibility from upcoming theatrical releases across all major studio labels” including the live-action Beauty and the Beast (March 17, 2017), Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (May 5, 2017), Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (May 26, 2017), Thor: Ragnarok (Nov. 3, 2017) and Star Wars: Episode VIII (early 2018), she said.

Mike Snider

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