The stronger-than-expected $170 million domestic weekend box office for Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice was good enough to impress Time Warner’s fans on Wall Street — but not sufficient to change the minds of many skeptics.
The stock is up more than 2% in early trading today. But at about $71.50 it’s still lower than the company’s trading price last Thursday when it hovered around $73.
“Batman V Superman is the kick-off for 10 total DC Comics films to come in the next 6 years, as well as up to 12 new TV series and at least 3 new video games — so getting this one right is essential to the success of this entire franchise,” says Macquarie Capital’s Tim Nollen, who has an “outperform” rating on Time Warner. “In addition we expect [about] $1 billion in gross consumer merchandise sales on these characters.”
Although he was “anxious” about the downbeat reviews for Batman V Superman, it “drew the crowds, and looks to be on its way to breaking $1 billion” at global box offices.
Wunderlich Securities Matthew Harrigan, who has a “buy” recommendation on Time Warner, says the weekend “supports our confidence in a major 2016 turnaround for the Warner Bros. studio.” He adds that it “revenges 2015 flops that included Pan, Jupiter Ascending, In the Heart Of The Sea, and Man From U.N.C.L.E.“
But others want to wait for more evidence showing that the studio is back on track.
Stifel Research’s Benjamin Mogil is sticking to his “hold” recommendation for Time Warner shares even as he acknowledges that Batman V Superman likely will beat his worldwide box office projection for $850 million.
The weekend results also “bode well for the expansion of the IP: Suicide Squad in 2016; Wonder Woman and The Justice League in 2017; and Flash and Aquaman in 2018,” he says.
Meanwhile, Cowen and Co’s Doug Creutz — who rates Time Warner a “market perform” stock — says that even though the film has been “just about everything Time Warner could have hoped for from a box office performance perspective thus far,” the critical drubbing “has to be at least somewhat of a concern.”
“We had felt Warner was taking a risk by kicking things off with a multi-protagonist film, which in the superhero genre often winds up feeling overstuffed and unfocused,” the analyst says. “The performance of BvS could become a bit of Pyrrhic victory for Time Warner if it turns people off from attending future DC films.”
Suicide Squad, out in August, “will be a critically important indicator of whether Warner wrong-footed itself with BvS, or whether the IP is strong enough to shrug off a somewhat shaky start (from a quality perspective).”