Artile from Reuters - December 1, 2005
Disney hopes Narnia works box-office miracle

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A film starring a talking lion, an evil witch and a magic wardrobe may give the Walt Disney Co. something it desperately needs -- a Harry Potter-like franchise to rejuvenate its lagging film business.


Disney's film version of the beloved 1950 children's book, "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" by Christian author C.S. Lewis, hits U.S. theaters on December 9, riding a massive marketing push.
"We literally left no stone unturned," said Dennis Rice, senior vice president of publicity for Walt Disney Studios. "We went after all fans equally and aggressively."


The movie, which cost an estimated $250 million to make and market in North America, represents a bet the studio can score a box-office hit on the order of "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," which took in $181 million worldwide its first weekend last month.


"I think it's a very big factor for the company," Lawrence Haverty, portfolio manager at Gabelli Global Multimedia Trust, said of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe."


"If you have a family film that is successful, it is of enormous financial consequences for the company. You're talking about a franchise value in the billions of dollars," he said.
Disney Studios lost $313 million in the fourth quarter mainly on marketing costs from a large slate of lackluster films from its Miramax Film division. Investors also are nervous about the looming end of Disney's partnership next summer with Pixar Animation Studios Inc., whose computer-animated blockbusters have grossed more than $3 billion at box offices.


Notoriously skittish about fronting costs for big-budget films, Disney passed on making "Lord of the Rings," based on the books by Lewis' contemporary, J.R.R. Tolkien. The three "Rings" films grossed $2.9 billion at box offices worldwide.