Ahead of the Bell: 'New Moon' lifts theater chains

AP News
Posted: Nov 23, 2009 9:21 AM

A surprisingly strong weekend opening for the second movie in the Twilight vampire series, "New Moon," led analysts to raise their box office forecasts and support a more upbeat outlook for theater chains.

Merriman Curhan Ford analyst Eric Wold said the Summit Entertainment movie brought in $140.7 million domestically, a record for a film released outside of the May-to-August period and boosts the box office outlook for the fourth quarter.

He said Regal Entertainment Group, as the nation's largest theater chain, should benefit the most from "New Moon" and other releases as consumers flock to movies as a cheaper option for entertainment. In addition, Regal's expansion of its 3-D theater network will boost attendance and prices.

So far, Regal's fourth-quarter take of box office sales is 15.7 percent, up from 6.9 percent as of last Thursday. He raised his fourth-quarter revenue outlook for Regal to $727 million from $702 million and earnings by 3 cents per share to 20 cents.

Lazard Capital analyst Barton Crockett raised his domestic box office growth rate for the fourth quarter to 15.3 percent from 10 percent. He said the box office receipts from "New Moon" exceeded his expectation by $68.8 million for the opening weekend.

He now projects a $360.8 million total domestic take for the movie, up from a previous estimate of $256.1 million. The first movie in the series, "Twilight," took in $192.8 million, domestically.