It may seem paradoxical, but while 2013 was a bad year for films in terms of growth, it was an excellent year for cinemas. Even with a strong summer at the box office, 2013 was flat or even down compared to the previous year in most western countries. Only emerging markets like China showed strong and significant growth on the back of their multiplex expansions.
It would seem logical that this trend would be reflected in the share price of listed exhibitors, but analysis by CelluloidJunkie.com has found that major exhibitors in the four largest English-speaking territories (USA, Canada, UK and Australia) had one of their best years ever in terms of share price. We will examine this, as well as looking at the possible causes and outlook.
We first have to preface the analysis by noting that it is difficult to make a completely accurate like-for-like comparison. While the majority of the largest exhibitors in the US and Canada are publicly traded (Regal, Cinemark and Cineplex are, while AMC is privately owned by China’s Dalian Wanda Group), the same is not the case in UK, where only one of the Big Three is listed (Cinemaworld; Odeon-UCI and Vue are privately held), whereas in Australia the multiplex chains are privately owned (Hoyts) or have complicated joint ownership or subsidiary status (Village and Greater Union/Event Cinemas).
Even so, it is still possible to get a good idea of how markets value exhibitors and why 2013 was a good year for them, as we will see.
USA and Canada
2013 was a flat year in terms of box office growth. Statistics from BoxOfficeMojo tell us that overall gross was $10.925 billion, compared to $10.823 billion the previous year. While up by $100m year-on-year, this “growth” is effectively cancelled out by inflation. The underlying ticket sales are likely to show a decline when the official statistics are published by the MPAA. Projecting an annualized rate The Numbers sees attendance fall from 1.36bn to 1.19bn between 2012 and 2103.
This decline is in-line with what was predicted ahead of CinemaCon last year. Reported in Deadline:
“Bond analysis firm Fitch Ratings forecasts a “modest” decline in 2013 ticket sales and long-term challenges that should “cause concern” for lenders. Studios will find it “difficult to replicate” the success they had last year with hits including The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises, analysts Shawn Gannon, Rolando Larrondo and Mike Simonton conclude. In addition the 3D market is “starting to mature.””
All-in-all you would think that it would have been good to short stocks in exhibitors, but you would have been wrong.
Regal Cinemas went from strength to strength as the share price rose from just under $14 per share in January 2013 to close to $20 per share at the start of 2014, before slipping down closer to $19 recently.
Meanwhile competitor Cinemark started the year below $27 and ended it above $33, before currently landing just above $30. Not as strong as Regal’s growth, but still significant.
North of the border, Cineplex pulled off the most impressive stock market feat of them all by increasing from C$32 to coming within a whisker of C$45 before declining to just over C$40.