Ahead of the Bell: Movie theaters see strong sales

AP News
Posted: Dec 28, 2009 8:18 AM

U.S. movie theater chains should see a jump in box office revenue for the fourth quarter after moviegoers flocked to high-profile films over the holiday weekend, a Merriman Curhan Ford analyst said Monday.

Box office sales totaled $278 million this past weekend, breaking the previous weekend record of $253 million set in July. It was the second week in theaters for James Cameron's "Avatar." New openings included "Sherlock Holmes," "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel" and "It's Complicated."

Merriman analyst Eric Wold said three of the biggest theater chains _ Regal Entertainment Group, Carmike Cinemas Inc. and Cinemark Holdings Inc. _ should see a boost in fourth-quarter sales.

Wold, who has a "Buy" rating on all three companies, expects them to post 9 percent increases in box office sales per screen from the same quarter a year ago.

The analyst said Imax Corp. should have a better quarter than previously expected. He estimates the company's jumbo screens will draw about $82 million in box office sales for the fourth quarter, up from a previous forecast of $70 million.

Wold has a "Neutral" rating on Imax shares.