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UPDATE 2-Disney profit beats forecasts with ESPN, 'Frozen'

LOS ANGELES, Feb 5 (Reuters) - Media company Walt Disney Co reported higher profit for the quarter that ended in December, beating Wall Street expectations with growth at sports network ESPN and the strong performance of its animated hit film "Frozen."

The company posted adjusted earnings per share of $1.04, according to a statement released on Wednesday, exceeding the 92 cents average estimate of analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Net income for the quarter rose to $1.8 billion, a 33 percent gain from a year earlier.

Disney shares climbed to $72.99 in after-hours trading, up 1.7 percent from their earlier $71.76 close on the New York Stock Exchange.

The media networks unit, which includes ESPN, reported $1.5 billion in operating income for the quarter, a 20 percent gain from a year earlier.

The company's movie studio reported a 75 percent gain in operating income, to $409 million. The unit benefited from big box office grosses for "Frozen," the story of royal sisters in an icy kingdom, and Marvel superhero sequel "Thor: The Dark World." The two films have sold more than $1.5 billion worth of tickets combined.

At Disney's theme parks, higher guest spending in the United States helped the unit's profit rise by 16 percent to $671 million.

Disney's interactive gaming unit posted a $55 million profit, boosted by sales of its ambitious new video game Disney Infinity.