Looks like movie theater owners are the biggest beneficiaries on Wall Street today from the excitement over the early box office results for The Hunger Games. Carmike was +2.7%, Marcus Corp was +2.6%, Cinemark was +1.6%, and Regal was +0.6%. Although exhibition companies have done well over the last few months as ticket sales have picked up, they’re also vulnerable when a big film bombs the way Disney’s John Carter did. What about Lionsgate, which produced and distributed Hunger Games? Its stock price bounced around today before ending at $14.53, virtually flat at -0.1%. Investors already exhibited their extravagant expectations for the film by bidding Lionsgate up 10% over the last five days — not to mention the 74.6% jump since the beginning of January, and the 138.6% increase over the last 12 months. The company’s shares trade at more than 60 times its expected earnings, an astronomical level. The big debate now is over whether Lionsgate can continue to grow. On Wednesday Stifel Nicolaus analyst Benjamin Mogil raised his target price to $17.50 from $15 — but the following day Evercore Partners dropped its rating to “market perform.” Bulls are betting that Hunger Games will generate $130M or more this weekend. But they also need to know whether the frenzy over the film will last, which means it would have to appeal to male as well as female ticket buyers. The runs on Imax and exhibitors’ own large-sized screens should help, Mogil says. Even so, he — and others — urge investors not to become carried away by this weekend’s results. “We would likely wait for the second-week figures before changing our estimates,” even if this weekend crosses the $130M mark, Mogil says.
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