Empire jumps into profit on the back of Starsky & Hutch

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The Independent Online

The runaway success of the Seventies-inspired film Starsky & Hutch has helped the AIM-listed software developer Empire Interactive to report its first profit since listing four years ago.

The runaway success of the Seventies-inspired film Starsky & Hutch has helped the AIM-listed software developer Empire Interactive to report its first profit since listing four years ago.

The company, which signed a licence with Sony Pictures to develop a computer game based on the cult television detective series three years ago, has sold 600,000 copies of its Starsky & Hutch shoot 'em up adventure since the title was launched last June. It is hoping sales of the game will accelerate now that the film has been launched in the UK, starring Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson

Empire, which floated in July 2000, yesterday reported pre-tax profits of £611,000 against losses of £3m the previous year, on sales up 35 per cent at £30.5m. Its shares rose 7 per cent to 11.25p. It put its success down to its decision to focus on developing games tied in to Hollywood blockbusters. It is targeting films with a retro appeal, in an attempt to corner the 30-somethings market and has secured the rights to make console and PC games for the forthcoming Starsky & Hutch 2, Starship Troopers and Bad Boys II.

The group's strength in North America, where it makes 53 per cent of its sales, is behind the popularity of its Big Mutha Truckers game - essentially a driving arcade game that pitches truck drivers against bandanna-wearing Harley Davidson riders. The game was the sixth most popular computer game in the US last year, selling 800,000 copies.

Ian Higgins, the chief executive, said: "The success of products such as Starsky & Hutch and Big Mutha Truckers creates franchises for the group,which also build value in the future through sequel titles."

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