Even ‘Star Wars’ can’t save theater chains

Dina Gachman Dec 24, 2015

Disney and Lucasfilm’s much anticipated sequel “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” has been breaking daily box office records since it premiered on December 18, but the return of Princess Leia and Han Solo hasn’t rescued movie theater stocks from the dark side.

Exhibition companies like AMC Entertainment, Regal, Cinemark, Carmike and Imax are lagging this week, even though “The Force Awakens” has been crushing IMAX ticket sales records. The movie played on 667 IMAX screens across the globe and saw an opening record of $48 million, besting “Jurassic World’s” previous global opening record of $44.1 million.

Part of the reason for the stock slump may be that ticket sales for “The Force Awakens” could slow faster than many analysts expected. Most diehard fans rushed to the theater during opening weekend, and B. Riley & Co’s Eric Wold told Deadline Hollywood, “Disney likely requested (demanded) a much higher-than-average film rent split” from exhibitors. With the current trend of a few big-budget films ruling the box office, “We could see average film rent expenses push higher,” says Wold, which would hurt theater profit margins. 

Still, the film’s $765.9m worldwide earnings aren’t exactly weak, and it’s looking likely that “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” will pass the $1 billion mark by the start of 2016.

As Darth Vader once said, the force is strong with this one (at the box office). We’ll just have to wait and see whether or not it’s strong enough to boost exhibitors’ stocks.

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