Miller Tabak’s David Joyce credits the improving ad market and his optimism about general business trends for his decision this morning to upgrade Lionsgate to “buy” from “neutral” — and to up his stock price estimates for AMC Networks, CBS, Disney, and Time Warner. He says that Lionsgate should benefit from the growing interest in The Hunger Games leading up to its release in March. He expects the thriller to generate about $170M at North American box offices. In addition, the independent studio’s acclaimed TV series Mad Men will begin a new season on AMC this quarter. Joyce says he expects Lionsgate stock — which ended 2011 at $8.32 — to hit $10 this year. He also predicts that strengthening ad sales and Mad Men will boost AMC Networks from $37.58 to $44 soon. That’s an increase from his previous short-term estimate of $40. The new price forecast would make AMC more expensive than other TV content companies, but Joyce says that’s merited because AMC’s young networks have “greater growth prospects” while there’s still “some takeover speculation lingering over the company.”  Meanwhile, Joyce expects CBS to hit $33 in 2012, up from the year-end price of $27.14. He raised his short-term target for Disney — which ended the year at $37.50 — to $44 from $39. Along with ad strength, he says that the 3D release of Beauty & The Beast could generate $100M in box office sales while improvements in the overall economy will provide a lift for the theme parks. Joyce also raised his short-term target for Time Warner to $43 from $38 following its $36.14 close in 2011. The analyst says he expects this summer’s Batman sequel, The Dark Knight Rises, to be “one of the year’s biggest films.” He also predicts that HBO subscriptions will grow as it rolls out its HBO GO digital streaming platform.

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