Disney Studios president leaves

In a continued housecleaning at Walt Disney Co., studio distribution veteran Mark Zoradi is leaving after 29 years.

The departure of Zoradi, president of Disney’s motion pictures group, follows the ousting of his former boss, Disney Studios Chairman Dick Cook, in September and Miramax Films President Daniel Battsek late last month.

Under the direction of Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger, the Burbank studio is being remade by Cook’s successor, Rich Ross, former president of Disney Channels Worldwide.

Disney’s marketing and distribution operations are expected to undergo restructuring as Iger moves to position the studio for a future that includes digital distribution of movies and shortening the period between a film’s release in theaters and the home, people close to the situation said.

In an address a few weeks ago at an entertainment conference, Iger reiterated his views that consumers’ demand for seeing movies when and how they want is pressing studios to rethink longtime practices. “The press to move the DVD window up, be it physical or digital, will grow because of that phenomenon,” he said.


Nearly five years ago, Iger first broached the issue of narrowing the release windows, but then retreated after theater owners, as well as Cook, balked at the idea.

Zoradi, like Cook, was viewed as being rooted in established marketing and distribution practices, which Iger considers out of step with changes in the business.

Iger has said the studio was also taking a hard look at marketing costs at a time when DVD sales no longer are a reliable cash cow.

Disney mounted a lavish promotional campaign that included a nationwide whistle-stop train tour for its current release, “A Christmas Carol,” which cost nearly $200 million to produce and tens of millions more to market. The film had a softer-than-expected opening last weekend, when it sold $30 million worth of tickets in the U.S. and Canada.

Media analyst Doug Creutz of Cowen & Co. estimated that Disney would “likely need to take a write-down of at least $50 million and potentially as much as $100 million on the film.” Disney declined to comment on the report.

During his nearly three decades at Disney, Zoradi worked in the TV, home entertainment and film divisions and most recently served as president of the studio’s motion picture group, overseeing worldwide marketing and distribution.

Last weekend, Zoradi received the Louis B. Mayer motion picture business leader of the year award from his alma mater, the UCLA Anderson School of Management.