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Thor and Captain America in Disney’s The Avengers

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Walt Disney Co.'s earnings rose in the third quarter, lifted by higher spending at the company's theme parks and the blockbuster performance of superhero movie The Avengers.

The media and theme park company reported on Tuesday earnings per share of $1.01 (U.S.), a 31 per cent rise from a year earlier. Net income rose 24 per cent to $1.8-billion.

Earnings beat the 93 cents a share that analysts had forecast, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. In after-hours trading, Disney's shares declined 1 per cent to $49.37.

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Driven by Disney's superhero movie The Avengers, which has made more than $1.4-billion worldwide, studio income increased to $313-million from $49-million a year earlier.

The studio results offset a decline in earnings at ESPN's powerhouse ESPN network, which the company said was due to the timing of deferred affiliate fees. Overall its cable TV unit, the company's largest, increased by 1 per cent to $1.86-billion.

Earnings at theme parks rose 21 per cent, the result of increases at its Tokyo theme park, where the company collects management and other fees, and which was impacted in the year earlier quarter by a temporary suspension of operations following the March 2011 earthquake.

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