Although some advance blurbs for "Columbia Meets the Financial Analysts" (originally titled "Profits Without Honor") gave the impression this might be a blood-drenched shoot-em-up, it turned out to be an almost sentimental saga of triumph in the face of adversity, clearly fit for family audiences.
Carrying record second-quarter earnings in his hip pocket for ammunition, Columbia Pictures Industries President Alan J. Hirschchield, in what was essentially a one-man show, disarmed the supporting cast of nearly one hundred Wall Street analysts with his forecast of still greater days ahead for Columbia, as profits from "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" roll in.
The financial presentation yesterday by Hirschfield and other Columbia corporate officers before the New York Society of Security Analysts was their first public appearance since the furor over Begelman broke two months ago. The company's official report on the incident to the Securities and Exchange Commission was expected to be released yesterday but was not ready.
David Begelman, slated for a starring role in this production until his resignation under pressure last week as Columbia studio chief, even offstage was central to the unfolding plot as it concerned his initial reinstatement following revelations he had misappropriated more than $60,000 from the company.
"It was my own final decision to reinstate Mr. Begelman, fully supported by the board," Hirschfield told the analysts, countering reports that the Columbia chief executive originally intended to dump Begelman but was pressured by the board into keeping him.
"It was done considering all of the circumstances up to that point in time. it was an enormously difficult decision and it proved wrong," he added.
Only one question even indirectly concerned the Begelman incident, and that involved publicity that has been focused on movie industry finances in general, and government probes into charges of financial irregularities and monopolistic practices by the studios.
"Obviously our own problems have not helped the industry in this area," said Hirschfield. "What's happened is that at least some producers and some exhibitors . . . for lack of their own abilities or track record, have seized upon this as an effort to discredit production and distribution. I don't think its worthy of discrediting. I think that by and large the major companies in the business today are run by forthright, damned honest and hardworking businessmen."
As for Columbia's profits for the second quarter ending Dec. 31, net income totaled $25.8 million ($2.77 a share) compared with $3.4 million (41 cents) during the same quarter of 1976. The net income figure, however, included several significant nonrecurring items.
Income from continuing operations came to $11 million ($1.17), plus a $9.75 million ($1.05) gain from the sale of Columbia's lease on its Fifth Avenue New York headquarters building. There was an additional extraordinary credit of $5.1 million (55 cents) from use of tax loss carryforwards. In the same quarter last year, the tax los carryforward amounted to only $825,000 (10 cents). Revenues in the second quarter totaled $131.1 million, up 55 percent from the previous year.
For the first six months of its fiscal year, Columbia reported net income of $36.7 million ($3.97), including the nonrecurring gains, versus $21.9 million ($2.64) for the first half of fiscal 1977 which included profits from the sale of its music publishing company.