Commentary

With TV As A Rival, Can Movie Chains Gain Ground This Fall?

TV station groups have been down, but they are not out. There is hope that deregulation, new technical standards and revenues from digital TV providers will deliver sizable returns.

But for theater owners? Times may be tougher. =Even one slightly underperforming movie can make theater-owner executives shudder.

The highly anticipated return of the “Blade Runner” franchise -- “Blade Runner 2049” -- posted just $31.5 million in box office revenue this past weekend. Analysts predicted around $54 million.

All that pushed big movie theater stock prices down on Monday: AMC Entertainment lost 7.9% to $14.00, while Regal Entertainment Group sank 4.6% to $16.01, Cinemark Holdings gave up 3.8% to $36.26, and Imax was down 3.6% to $21.70.

Such findings aren't new. Poor wide-release movie openings of major films have dinged theater owners stocks before.

Longevity is the key for survival. Theaters hope a successful movie will run for at least a month or more. Four to five weeks after a film’s opening is when theaters secure the greatest percentage of box-office revenues from movie studios.

Underlying much of this revenue decline is a greater worry for theater owners -- a sizable portion of customers want to see newer theatrical movies at home, on ever-bigger TV screens, via new digital direct platforms.

These realities come as the movie industry posted its worse summer selling period in 25 years in terms of attendance. Plus, summer box-office revenue was down 15%. Specifically, AMC is down 57% for the year; Regal is off 22%, and Imax has given up 30%.

However, for many there is a significant upside. The movie industry now moves heartily into October, sitting between the biggest selling times of the year, the summer and holiday periods.

What is coming? Big adventure movies, such as “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” In addition, there are other big fantasy-themed, comic-book hero efforts, including “Thor: Ragnorak” and “Justice League.”

Can blockbusters turn around an anticipated 5% decline in box-office revenues for all of 2017? Expect your favorite spacecraft to travel at modest sub-warp speeds.

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