Theaters Face Fall Doldrums After A Disappointing Summer: Analyst

Stock prices for exhibition chains likely will be “relatively range-bound” for the next two months as theaters begin September — the slowest month of the year for box office sales — with a lot of ground to make up, Barclays Equity Research’s Anthony DiClemente says this morning. The summer ended with domestic sales of $4.28B, down 2.8% vs the period last year. Attendance fell 4.3% to 533M, which was slightly offset by a 1.5% rise in ticket prices. As a result, sales in Q3 will fall short of DiClemente’s $2.86B forecast — already down 1.3% from last year — unless September is 20% higher than 2011. That “could be quite difficult,” the analyst says. For one thing, last September was unusually strong, +11% vs the month in 2010. And the releases teed up for the next few weeks don’t look like they’ll generate much excitement: DiClemente said that the top performers likely will be Disney/Pixar’s 3D re-release of Finding Nemo, Sony’s Resident Evil: Retribution and TriStar’s Looper. Indeed, the analyst says that box offices should be relatively quiet until November when MGM releases the James Bond film Skyfall and Lionsgate has The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn (Part Two). Separately, Lazard Capital Markets’ Barton Crockett projects that Q3 domestic box office sales will end up -4,6% to $2.76B.

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