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Quick Hits: Time Warner to Release Bigger, Louder, Fewer Movies


Brief scrutiny of today's headlines.

Warner Brothers hopes The Dark Knight will take the studio to the sunny uplands of steady profitability.

The studio, a subsidiary of Time Warner (TWX), plans to release fewer but bigger movies into the crowded market each year, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Earlier this year, Warner closed its 2 art-house labels, Picturehosue and Warner Independent Pictures. The studio now releases 25 to 26 movies a year, but plans to cut production to 20 to 22 films by 2010.

As part of the new strategy, Warner will build future movies around superheroes, some centered on characters from its DC Comics unit, including Batman.

The reason: Superheroes have global appeal.

Last year, Warner films took in $1.4 billion domestically, but $2 billion worldwide.

Superheroes offer seemingly endless links with consumer products and games that can be marketed around the world.

Warner goes head-to-head with Marvel Entertainment (MVL), which scored big with this summer's Iron Man. Marvel's characters include Spider-Man, the X-Men and Daredevil. It markets action figures and games through a deal with Hasbro (HAS).

Warner has adopted Marvel's tactic of releasing a single film for each character and using the sequels to build a multi-character film.

But movie-goers know what they like when they see and it's difficult to anticipate hits. Warner's Speed Racer took in $43.9 million in the United States, but cost as much as $150 to produce. Get Smart reportedly hasn't met expectations.

Warner produces and distributes the Harry Potter films, DVDs and has the world largest film library. It makes TV shows, including ER for NBC, a unit of General Electric (GE) and The New Adventures of Old Christine for CBS (CBS).
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