Don’t be fooled by the headlines this summer that likely will focus on how strong movie ticket sales look compared to last year. Researchers at SNL Kagan predict that domestic box office for the period from late April to the end of August will be up 1.7% to about $4.2 billion. Not bad – especially considering that this year’s figure counts 42 releases vs. 45 last year — right? Not so fast. When Kagan looks at all sources of income including international sales, home video, and TV, it estimates that this year’s crop will generate $4.45 billion in profits on $12.3 billion in revenues. That’s down slightly from last year’s $4.49 billion in profit on revenues of nearly $13 billion. The forecast follows Kagan’s estimate that only 2 out of 16 releases in April clearly will be profitable: Fox’s Rio and Universal’s Fast Five. Three others could be profitable for distributors, depending on the terms of their deals with exhibitors: Universal’s Hop, FilmDistrict’s Insidious, and Summit Entertainment’s Source Code.

While the studios sort through their finances, theater chains will enjoy any uptick in summer sales. Box office revenues in the first quarter for the four biggest publicly traded chains – Carmike, Cinemark, Reading International, and Regal – dropped 17.2% vs the same period last year to about $803 million. Their concession sales were down 12.6% to about $337 million, although sales per customer rose 3.2% to $2.97.

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