Back in January 2012, Lions Gate Entertainment (LGF) acquired rival movie studio Summit Entertainment for $412.5 million plus $300 million in debt. The total $712.5 million gave Lions Gate the huge "Twilight" franchise, unfortunately at the end of its run. However as investors will find out Friday, Summit had more to offer in the purchase price.
On Friday, "Warm Bodies" opens in over 2900 theaters. The movie is an adaptation of the first novel from Isaac Marion of the same name. The movie is described as a "Romeo and Juliet" version of a zombie apocalypse. It's rare for a movie to do especially well during Super Bowl weekend. However, Lions Gate has found the perfect movie that appeals more to girls, and might get a teen audience over the weekend. The movie faces little competition from the new Sylvester Stallone movie, "Bullet in the Head", that will likely make less than $10 million. "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters" was the biggest movie last weekend, with a box office of $19 million, and will likely finish in second place to "Warm Bodies".
Boxoffice.com estimates the movie will make $20.7 million in its opening weekend. The website predicts a total domestic box office of $40 million. This particular website also uses Facebook, Twitter, and Trailer activity to estimate box office returns. The trailer for "Warm Bodies" has been seen 11.5 million times.
Other movies that Lions Gate gained from the acquisition of Summit include: "Now You See Me", "Red 2", "The Tomb", "Snitch", "Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus" and "Ender's Game". I profiled "Ender's Game" in a previous article. The movie is the adaptation of a bestselling children's book series centered around children being trained to fight off an alien invasion. The book turned into many sequels, and could be a possible blockbuster franchise for Lions Gate if it is well received.
The release of "Ender's Game" on November 1, 2013 sets up one of the potentially strongest months in Lions Gate's history. Later that month, the second Hunger Games movie "Catching Fire" will be released. I wrote previously about Lions Gate's smart decision to turn that blockbuster trilogy into four movies that will ensure strong revenue in each of the next three years.
Shares of Lions Gate hit a new 52 week high this week at $18.51. Over the last 52 weeks, shares have traded between $10.35 and that $18.51 mark. Analysts expect the company to post earnings per share of $0.94 in the current fiscal year. Lions Gate reports third quarter earnings on February 11th. I believe that fourth quarter earnings will be higher, thanks to the success of "Warm Bodies" and underestimated revenue targets by analysts.
In fiscal 2013, analysts expect earnings per share of $1.42, giving shares a forward price to earnings ratio of 13. That fiscal year includes "Ender's Game" and "Catching Fire", along with other movies and television programs from the company. Expect Lions Gate and/or analysts to raise estimates for the next fiscal year. "Warm Bodies" is just the beginning, and shares will continue onto the $20 level. The time to buy shares is before the company's blockbuster November. I recommended shares long before "The Hunger Games" movie came out, and investors were rewarded with high returns from the first movie alone.
Disclosure: I am long LGF. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.