Exhibition company stocks’ summer swoon continued today following another weekend of ho-hum box office sales.
All of the major chains touched 52-week lows as AMC Entertainment closed -3.2% followed by Regal (-2.6%), Cinemark (-1.8%), and Imax (-0.8%). Cinema ad company National CineMedia was -2.3%, also touching a one-year low.
The Standard & Poor’s 500, a benchmark for the overall market, was up 1% today.
Following this past weekend, domestic moviegoers have spent about $3.3 billion at box offices so far this summer, down 11% vs the May to mid-August period last year.
Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter says that sales in Q3 are down about 20.6%. But he adds that August has the worst comparisons with last year. That should improve in September; he expects the full quarter to be down 10%.
“A difficult Q3 comparison and lackluster releases may keep [movie theater chain] shares depressed until Q4,” Pachter says.
But with promising Q4 titles including Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Justice League, and Thor: Ragnarok “it is still possible” for full year sales to exceed last year’s $11.4 billion.
Pachter says that investors’ sour view of exhibition stocks was made especially tart due to their focus on quarterly results.
For example, he says, if Disney’s live action Beauty And The Beast had been released in June, instead of March, then it “would likely have added $360 million to Q2 and another $140 million to July. If this had occurred, Q2 would likely have ended up 4.2% (vs. down 3.5%) and July would have ended down 1.5% (vs. down 12.1%), likely averting the big stir in the industry throughout Q2.”
Although Q1 would have ended down 8.5%, he says, that “would not have been terribly surprising given the
tough comparison” with 2016.
In addition to box office concerns, many investors fear that Hollywood studios will adopt premium video on demand, offering movies to home viewers in the 90-day period when theaters typically have them exclusively.