The September quarter was bound to be soft for MGM as it bore some of the costs to produce the latest James Bond film, Spectre, and the Rocky sequel Creed, but without the ability to collect revenues prior to their release.
Still, an $83 million income tax benefit and $3 million of interest income softened the blow. MGM also gave itself a vote of confidence by making stock repurchases: It reported $226 million and says that much of that took place in the quarter.
With the one-time benefits folded in, the studio ended up with $124.0 million in net income — up from $28.6 million in the period last year — on revenues of $212.1 million, down 9.1%.
“We are poised to deliver terrific performance in 2015 despite the performance of the US dollar,” CEO Gary Barber told investors in the privately held company. “We are in an exceptionally strong financial position.” In addition to revenues from Spectre, he’s optimistic about Creed.
Barber says he has talked to “every studio” about distribution rights for the next Bond film. He says that “there will be a tremendous amount of interest,” but did not offer specifics.
He also says that the decision to move Ben Hur to August from February was “purely an evaluation of the competitive marketplace.”
The theatrical unit had worldwide revenue of $5.7 million, down 12.3%. Home entertainment sales, at $31.0 million, fell 25.7%. The studio had Hot Pursuit and Poltergeist but doesn’t control all of the rights. MGM expects the operation to improve in the current quarter as MGM promotes old James Bond and Rocky movies.
Television came to MGM’s rescue with $152.5 million in licensing revenues, up 1.3%. The period included pay television and streaming sales for The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies, and season 2 of Fargo on FX.