NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -
Pixar Animation Studios is not moving rapidly to find a new distribution partner for its films and may be reaching a distribution deal with Walt Disney Co., with which it ended talks in January, according to a published report.
The New York Times reported Monday that Steve Jobs, the CEO of Pixar, has not had meetings with executives with Sony Pictures Entertainment, Warner Bros. and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM: Research, Estimates), despite interest from those studios in pursuing a distribution deal for Pixar films.
The Pixar agreement with Disney covers two more films from the successful animation studio, which has had a hit with each of its five movies, all of which were distributed and co-financed by Disney. "The Incredibles" is due out in November, while "Cars" is expected in fall of 2005. In January the two sides announced an end of talks to reach an agreement beyond those two films.
The paper quoted Jobs as saying that talks with possible new partners are going slowly.
"We are talking," he said, "but maybe not as much as they'd like."
The paper said that some Hollywood executives are speculating that Jobs may hope of another deal with Disney, depending upon what happens to its embattled CEO Michael Eisner. The Times said that some Hollywood executives speculate that Jobs would like to stay with Disney, with its family-friendly fare and its merchandising and marketing might. But the newspaper said that Jobs blames Eisner for the breakdown in talks between the two companies.
The failure of those talks were one of the issues used by critics of Eisner to argue for his removal from the company. When more than 40 percent of shareholders voted against his reelection to the Disney board of directors, the Disney board stripped Eisner of his chairman title, although it kept him on as CEO.
Jobs has continued to say it wants a distribution only deal, in which it would pay a fee to get the movie into theaters. Under the deal with Disney, it split the production costs, and the profits, from the film. But the success of the first five movies left it with so much cash it no longer needs investment from another studio and it wants to hang onto all the box office and ancillary revenue, such as video, video games and merchandise sales.
Jobs did have kind words for Disney when Pixar recently reported strong first quarter results.
"Although 'The Incredibles' and 'Cars' will likely be the last two Pixar films marketed and distributed by Disney," he said, "I want to stress that the working relationship between the two companies remains really positive and professional."
The Times said it's not clear if Jobs' comments, in start contrast to some of his public criticism of Disney in the past, is a sign of interest in reaching a new agreement with the company, or an effort to mend fences before Disney starts making plans to promote Pixar's next two films.
The paper said Jobs is concerned over a deal with Sony Pictures, a unit of conglomerate Sony Corp., due to that company's new music service competes directly with Apple's iTunes. Jobs is also CEO of Apple Computer.
Warner Bros. is a unit of Time Warner Inc., which is also the parent of CNN/Money. Time Warner CEO Richard Parsons confirmed in comments to reporters after Friday's annual meeting that the company is interested in a deal with Pixar, the Times reported.
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"We would like to have a close relationship," said Parsons. "But that is up to Steve Jobs, his relationship with Disney and the industry."