On Wednesday, leading retailer Wal-Mart (WMT) announced its exclusive partnership with Time Warner (TWX) and the upcoming blockbuster "Man of Steel". Fans of the highly anticipated superhero movie will likely be venturing into the big box retailer in the next month to get first crack at movie tickets.
Over 3,500 Wal-Mart stores will be part of the promotion beginning May 18th. At 8am on that date, fans will have to travel to the electronics section of Wal-Mart stores to buy advanced tickets for a showing of "Man of Steel" in their region. Customers will be limited to buy four tickets and will have to visit stores to make the purchase.
Dan Fellman, the president of domestic distribution at Warner Brothers had this to say of the deal, "We are extremely pleased to partner with Walmart on this unprecedented initiative, which will allow devoted fans to be among the first to see Man of Steel. We know the movie delivers and believe this unique partnership will kick off strong word of mouth that, thanks to the reach and immediacy of social media, will propel moviegoers to theaters nationwide."
I wrote about the potential for DC Comics and Time Warner with a successful "Man of Steel" movie. This initial deal should lead to other DC Comic movies having similar deals. With a partnership with one of the most popular movie companies, Wal-Mart is clearly betting on the future.
In a clear attempt to get people in its store, Wal-Mart is hoping it can get people to see its store layout and buy some other merchandise while they are picking up their movie tickets. The tickets will be sold too, as this is not just a promotional giveaway. No financial details were announced, but Wal-Mart could be getting a good deal from movie theaters that hope to similarly capture additional concession revenue by adding an extra show and aren't as worried about the cost of the ticket.
I also think Wal-Mart might make a play at a movie asset. This could include buying movietickets.com or fandango.com. Wal-Mart has seen pressure from Amazon (AMZN) to make more of its products available online. This move, which brings customers into stores, could actually pave the way for more online sales in the future with an acquisition like this.
Lions Gate Entertainment (LGF) did a deal with Groupon (GRPN) offering discount movie tickets for one of its releases. If "Man of Steel" has success with this extra screening, expect movie companies like Lions Gate to start calling Wal-Mart. This is why I believe this is a game changer. Years ago, movie theaters showed one movie at a time at select times. The times have changed and now movies are shown several times throughout the day on multiple screens. Movie theaters also added midnight showings to capitalize on huge anticipated movies. This new move by Wal-Mart could take this advancement one step further with an exclusive day early showing. Wal-Mart and other retailers will offer deals to customers to get them to buy movies, benefiting retailers, movie companies, and movie theaters.
Along with the sale of tickets, Wal-Mart announced that it has these offers for customers:
· Priority purchase Blu-Ray combo pack or HD digital download
· Official mobile app for "Man of Steel" featuring in store scanable downloads
· Exclusive original digital comic book written by David Goyer with every ticket purchase
· New line of "Man of Steel" merchandise in Wal-Mart stores beginning April 28th.
With Wal-Mart offering fans the option to buy 2D or 3D tickets, a potential winner to watch could be IMAX Corporation (IMAX). "Man of Steel" will also be shown on IMAX screens and an extra showing could help theaters around the country that typically show a new movie on the extra large screens for only two to three weeks. IMAX had great success with the early release of "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol" on its screens. The theater company will also show "Star Trek: Into Darkness" early in some regions.
This should also be a win-win for movie theaters like Cinemark (CNK) and Regal Cinema (RGC). These movie theater operators will be able to fill the seats of this advanced screening. In a way the theaters will be able to cash in from midnight showings, normal showings, and now the extra screening courtesy of Wal-Mart. Continue to watch the movie theaters and IMAX as this is another reason to buy ahead of the blockbuster 2015 that I recently highlighted.
While I say game changer, obviously it will take some time for the revenue to impact Wal-Mart and its shares. The potential is there and this is a move that should be followed. The move also represents another example of how Wal-Mart is fighting off Amazon and will continue to bring customers into its stores. Shares of Wal-Mart trade at $78.03 and are nearing 52 week highs of $79.50.
Despite the high price of Wal-Mart shares, the price to earnings ratio is only 14.6 times 2014 expected earnings on Yahoo Finance. Going forward, shares trade at 13.4 times next year's expected earnings. Shareholders will also collect a 2.4% yield from the retailer. I remain bullish on Wal-Mart going forward.