Pixar Animation Studios Inc. (search) on Wednesday posted sharply higher fourth-quarter earnings as DVDs of its computer-animated hit "Finding Nemo" (search) flew off the shelves and the movie continued to draw crowds in theaters internationally.

Fourth-quarter net income rose to $83.9 million, or $1.44 a share, from $17 million or 31 cents, in the year-ago quarter for the company, which sparked a Hollywood scramble last week by saying it is searching for a partner to replace Walt Disney Co. (search

Revenue jumped to $164.8 million from $39.4 million, the San Francisco Bay area company said. Its results vary widely from quarter to quarter and year to year because it only releases a film every year or 18 months.

Fish story "Finding Nemo" was the top U.S. draw last year and with $850 million in total ticket sales to date is the ninth-biggest draw worldwide ever. By the end of the year, it had sold 24.8 million home videos and DVDs, Pixar said.

No Distributor News

Last week, after ending talks with current partner Disney, the studio said it was looking for a new distributor starting in 2006. But Pixar did not comment in its earnings release on its search for a new partner.

"It is unlikely that Wall Street is going to get a lot of specifics until they get a deal in hand," said Harris Nesbitt Gerard analyst Jeff Logsdon.

Logsdon, who rates the shares "outperform," also said that international theatrical and DVD earnings would continue to pour in during the first quarter.

He calculates that Pixar can strike a deal that would let it keep 90 percent to 95 percent of profits from films in 2006 and beyond.

The company last week ended talks with Disney to extend their deal beyond 2005, an unexpected move that sent rival studios scrambling for the attention of Pixar.

Time Warner Inc. unit of Warner Bros., Fox Entertainment Group Inc.'s 20th Century Fox, Sony Corp's studio and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer are all seen battling for the right to distribute Pixar movies.

Shares of Pixar had risen about 15 percent from a year ago but were down 7 percent in the last month. They traded around $65.97 in after-hours trade on Instinet after a close of $63.54 on Nasdaq, where they lost 1 percent in regular trade.