At least three analysts have already reduced their earnings forecasts for the top publicly traded exhibition chains after Q2 ended with industrywide box office sales -2.9% compared with the same period last year. “We had originally built in flat- to modestly-higher trends in overall second quarter Box Office results,” Barrington Research’s James Goss says this morning. As a result, he cut his earnings-per-share projection for Regal by 40% to 15 cents, with Cinemark -30% to 33 cents, and Carmike -27% to 33 cents. He says the current quarter might also fall short of last year, which included Paramount’s Transformers: Dark Of The Moon, Warner Bros’ Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2, Paramount’s Captain America: The First Avenger, and Sony’s The Smurfs. But he’s impressed with the opening performance for Sony’s The Amazing Spider-Man and Universal’s Ted, and seems optimistic about Warner Bros’ The Dark Knight Rises, Sony’s Total Recall, and Universal’s Bourne Legacy. That could result in “an upside surprise” in Q3 leading into READ MORE »
The pacts with Cinemark and Regency Cinemas add 1.400 more screens to Fandango‘s paperless ticket service, more than doubling its offerings after the company already had deals with Regal Entertainment, Reading Cinemas and Hollywood Theatres. That brings the total …
PLANO, Texas, February 15, 2012 – Lee Roy Mitchell, Chairman of the Board of Cinemark Holdings Inc announced today that Tim Warner, who led the Company’s expansion throughout Latin America as the President of Cinemark International before becoming President of the domestic circuit in 2006, has been promoted to the position of Chief Executive Officer. The appointment follows notification by Alan Stock, who has served as Chief Executive Officer since December 2006, of his decision to step down from his current leadership position and retire from Cinemark. Mr. Stock will serve in a transitional role at Cinemark through May 1, 2012 and continue in an advisory role as a consultant for the Company for a two year period thereafter.
B. Riley analyst Eric Wold says it will in a major look-forward report today for the film business. He predicts 4% growth in box office sales this year — the result of a 1% uptick in attendance and a 3% rise in average ticket prices. What makes him so confident, especially following the 3.9% drop in 2011? Wold says that more consumers would have gone to the movies last year if Hollywood hadn’t released so many dogs. He dismisses another theory: that tickets are becoming too expensive. If that were the case, he says, then we would have seen soft numbers throughout the year — instead box offices set records in Q2 and Q3. He’s also optimistic about 2012 because there’ll be at least 25 sequels of films that collectively generated $3.64B at box offices. Sequels typically deliver about 6% less in ticket sales than the originals. But even if 2012′s films slip 20%, consumers will spend 12% more than they did for sequels in 2010. That could “set up 2012 for a potential rebound,” Wold says. He’s also encouraged to see that there’ll be at least 40 wide-release 3D
The weak box office sales this past weekend made it clear that the year is going to end with a whimper. Regal’s shares fell 8.7%, making it the biggest loser among the theater chains followed by Carmike (-4.9%) and Cinemark (-2.9%). Companies closely aligned with theaters also suffered: 3-D technology provider RealD fell 6.2% while ad seller National Cinemedia was off nearly 3%. “The hoped-for 4Q11 box office pop is slipping away,” says Lazard Capital Markets analyst Barton Crockett. Ticket sales so far this quarter are down about 6.9% vs the same period last year, he says. He predicts the quarter will end down 1.9% following an expected surge of Christmas weekend turnout for Paramount’s Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol as it goes into wide release, Warner Bros’ Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows, Sony’s The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo, Fox’s Alvin And The Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, and Paramount’s The Adventures Of Tintin.
Big Media 3Q Corporate Earnings Roundup: Are CEOs Really Worried About Recession? Or Just Looking For Convenient Excuse?
Three months ago, when Big Media CEOs wrapped up their 2Q earnings, they were still relentlessly upbeat about the business. Any worries about the economy? Not then. But the messages they delivered over the past few weeks, as they discussed 3Q, were different. Although they’re still optimistic — remember, they’re paid to be salesmen — now and then you could hear expressions of concern about where things are headed. It stood out when Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman noted that “ad sales growth will face some headwinds.” Other CEOs who are known for speaking bluntly warned that other shocks may bedevil the business. For example, Dish Network Chairman Charlie Ergen said that his satellite company — and others in pay TV — have to fight harder against rising programming costs because “there’s a limit to the price increases that could be passed on to consumers.” Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt warned that premium channels such as HBO, Showtime and Starz “are clearly impacted by the economy as consumers try to cut back.” Either they’re genuinely worried, or they want a scapegoat to blame for things that are going bad, or may soon do so. Whatever the case, we can expect to hear a lot more about the economy when it’s time for the post-mortem on the all-important 4Q earnings.
As for industry performance matters, parents of movie studios had their usual mixed results to brag about or explain away: Time Warner benefitted from Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2. Viacom was up on Transformers: Dark Of The Moon. And News Corp beat its chest about Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes and X-Men: First Class. But Disney’s Cars 2 was no match for last year’s Toy Story 3. Comcast’s Universal Pictures had nothing to compare to last year’s Despicable Me. Lionsgate suffered from Conan The Barbarian and Warrior. And DreamWorks Animation’s Kung Fu Panda 2 didn’t contribute as much in the quarter as Shrek Forever After did in the same period last year.
Over at the TV networks, Comcast’s NBC underperformed the Street’s already modest expectations. Execs at almost all the companies were eager to talk about the cash they expect to collect soon from political ads — as well as their favorite new ATM machines: retransmission consent deals and digital streamers including Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix. Speaking of Netflix, CEO Reed Hastings once again tried to reassure investors that he’s focused on “building back our reputation and brand strength” after his decision in July to slap a 60% price increase on customers who wanted to continue to rent DVDs and stream videos. In 3Q Netflix lost 57.7% of its market value and 800,000 subscribers. And since that customer loss was bigger than projected, Netflix shares continued to fall — they’re now down 67.3% since July 1.
Here are some other themes from the latest earnings reports:
Ad sales: They’s good, but for how long? Most television networks report that scatter prices are comfortably above the upfront market from this past summer. CBS chief Les Moonves says prices in 4Q are up by “mid-teens” on a percentage basis, while Discovery says it sees least high single digit percentages. But Disney’s Bob Iger noted that scatter prices have “slowed slightly these last few weeks.” Kurt Hall of National CineMedia — the leading seller of ads in movie theaters — was far more direct when he spoke to analysts after ratcheting down his company’s financial forecasts. “I’m sure that the broadcast and cable guys are sitting there now counting their lucky stars they got their upfront done before August,” he told analysts. “There’s a lot of uncertainty.”
UPDATE, 6:40 AM: CEO Alan Stock made his comment in a conference call with analysts who asked what he’d do if Sony continues with its plan to stop paying for 3D glasses — leaving it to exhibitors to manage the expense. ”We think the way the glasses model works in the U.S. is a great way to work it,” he said. He added that there’s still a lot of time to negotiate before next summer, when Sony wants the change to take place. “I’m pretty confident we can work out a solution,” Stock says. “If we can’t, we’ll have to head in a different direction.” Regarding Universal’s plan, which it canceled, to show Tower Heist on cable VOD just three weeks after opening in theaters, Stock says the studio “thought they had something the exhibitors would comply with.” After Cinemark threatened to boycott the film, “there hasn’t been any further discussion of that particular test, or anything else they’re working on.”
Cinemark, the nation’s third-largest movie theater chain, today threatened not to carry Universal’s upcoming caper comedy Tower Heist over the studio’s plan to offer the movie on video-on-demand just three weeks after its November …
The owners of a small Rancho Mirage movie theater have won an appeal allowing their antitrust claim against Cinemark USA to go forward. Their suit alleges that the larger competitor has been using its marketplace muscle to prevent their theater from obtaining the best films. The suit by Flagship Theatres of Palm Desert, owners of the 10-screen Palme D’or theater, was reinstated last week against Century Theatres, its parent Cinemark USA and two distributors. Flagship’s single theater is owned by Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston, film producer Alise Benjamin-Mauritzson (Ray), longtime theater operator Brian Tabor and ESPN radio talk show host Steve Mason. In their suit, they allege that Cinemark engaged in “circuit dealing,” a practice in which the owner of multiple theaters uses that combined purchasing power in bidding for films, rather than bidding competitively on a theater-by-theater basis. Specifically, the suit claims, Century is able to obtain higher-quality films for its Century 15 at the River theater, located in Rancho Mirage less than two miles from Palme D’Or, at less cost because of its size. The plaintiff presented evidence that as of 2006, the year Cinemark acquired Century and the year the litigation started, Century operated 1,000 screens at 80 locations in 12 states. “We think this is a significant case for independent theater owners,” Mason told Deadline this afternoon. “In towns all over America, indie theaters are getting squeezed, in many cases by Cinemark. Hopefully, indie owners can point to us, say ‘As in the Flagship case …’ and get some relief.”