Did "The Lone Ranger" Create a "John Carter" Sized Mess for Disney?

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Don't pity Walt Disney . For as badly as The Lone Ranger is performing at the box office, the company's Buena Vista Pictures is earning as much as ever.

More on why that is shortly. First, let's dig into the bad news. Minions mastered the masked man in the film's opening weekend as Despicable Me 2 took in $83.5 million over the July 4th weekend versus just $29.2 million for The Lone Ranger, Box Office Mojo reports.


Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp as The Lone Ranger and Tonto. Source: Buena Vista Pictures.

As bad as the showing is for Disney, Comcast's Universal Pictures walks away with another winner. Despicable Me already ranks as the 10th top grossing animated feature of all time after opening at $56.4 million in July 2010. That the sequel opened more than $20 million better bodes well both for the film and for Universal's animated efforts.

Disney won't be as fortunate with The Lone Ranger, which is why so many are comparing this flop-in-the-making to John Carter, last year's $250 million box office bomb that effectively ended the Disney career of former studio chief Rich Ross.

If only he knew then what we know now. John Carter, for as big a disaster as it was, did nothing to diminish the House of Mouse's theatrical prowess. Here's a closer look at the year-over-year numbers from Jan. 1 through June 30:

Buena Vista Year-Over-Year Comparison
YTD 2013
YTD 2012
Change

Number of films

10

12**

(2)

Total U.S. box office

$886.8 million

$949.8 million

(6.6%)

Per-film average

$88.7 million

$79.2 million

11.9%

Source: Box Office Mojo.
** Includes a 3D rerelease of The Lion King.

After achieving $800 million in domestic box office receipts only once since 2000 (in 2010), Disney has done at least that in both 2012 and this year. Impressive may be too timid a word for how well Buena Vista is doing right now.

Credit two very big films -- Marvel's The Avengers and Iron Man 3 -- which earned more than $1 billion each in global box office receipts. Last year, The Avengers led Disney to a $100 million, or 17%, increase in studio profit, S&P Capital IQ reports. The tough comparable could make similar gains hard to come by in 2013. But profits? There should be plenty to go around, thanks to Iron Man 3.

For investors, the lesson here is simple: Forget The Lone Ranger. Instead, pay attention to what's in the Marvel movie pipeline. Nothing in Disney's portfolio has proven to be so reliable at fixing box office mistakes. Exactly what you'd expect from a superhero.

Now it's your turn to weigh in. Did you see The Lone Ranger? If so, what did you think of the film, and are you more or less likely to invest in Disney as a result?

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The article Did "The Lone Ranger" Create a "John Carter" Sized Mess for Disney? originally appeared on Fool.com.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the  Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team and the Motley Fool Supernova Odyssey I mission. He owned shares of Walt Disney at the time of publication. Check out Tim's web home and portfolio holdings or connect with him on Google+Tumblr, or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.The Motley Fool recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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