Disney, Warner Brothers & Sony: Box Office Doesn't 'Stand Tall' As Audiences Avoid New Releases In Favor Of 'Guardians'

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 |  Includes: DIS, SNE, TWX, VIA
by: The Entertainment Oracle

Summary

The August box office started off hot but over the last two weeks has fallen back into its slump.

Warner Brothers’ ‘If I Stay’ and Sony’s ‘When The Game Stands Tall’ fail to make a big impact during opening weekend.

Disney’s ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ continues to be an impressive force and reclaims the top spot at the box office.

At the start of the month Hollywood had a sense of guarded optimism tied to the box office after Disney's (NYSE:DIS) Guardians of the Galaxy and Paramount's (a subsidiary of Viacom (NASDAQ:VIA)Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles opened to stellar debuts. Although that was then and this is now as two more weeks into August and none of the six films opening in that time, including new ones this week from Warner Brothers and Sony, have been able to top the box office as it's been all super heroes all the time.

Now in its fourth weekend of release Guardians of the Galaxy will actually end the week back in first place after spending the last two weeks looking up at the Ninja Turtles. It's rare for a movie to open in first, fall to second and then power its way back to the top weeks later but that's what Disney is looking at here. Plus given the differential between first and second is currently (at press time) just $800,000 it was again a close race that could have gone either way.

Imagine where the already depressed summer box office would be like without this pair.

Investor Analysis

Disney

This is really the same story but a different (and somewhat unexpected chapter) as Guardians has now taken the Frozen path and managed to regain the top spot at the box office deep into its run. The news is exceptionally good for Disney as it can present to its investors a new franchise that has banked over $250 million domestically (and another $200 million overseas) and is set to make a killing on DVD in the not too distant future…plus a continued consumer products presence.

A marquee movie of this nature works to better increase the bottom line of a number of a company's divisions and as Deadline.com pointed out earlier this week, combined with Captain America: The Winter Solider and Maleficent, Disney now has three of the year's top five movies overall.

Investors also know the house the mouse built isn't done just yet as it has the animated Big Hero 6 (also a Marvel property), buzzy live action adaptation of Broadway's Into The Woods and the Steve Carrell fronted adaptation of children's book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day set for the fall. If you weren't already keeping an eye on Disney, now's a good time to look in its direction (especially as subsidiary ABC is prepping to launch what may be fall's most anticipated series in How To Get Away With Murder this September).

Warner Brothers (a subsidiary of Time Warner (NYSE:TWX)

If it seems like we've down this road with Warner Brothers this summer it's because we have. The studio gets set to release a buzzy film only to see it under-perform…it's a story executives were hoping to avoid with If I Stay; they didn't.

After tracking in the $20 million range, the movie will open at around $16 million and a third place finish. Now to be completely fair, the budget of this film was estimated at $10 million so the movie is already in the black; the problem is that anticipation was higher so it becomes a letdown. Given the summer Warner Brothers has had with high-profile misses like Blended, Edge of Tomorrow and Jersey Boys the hope was the studio could end the season on a high note riding the coattails of the success of young adult literary adaptations. While technically it did, after seeing a $4 million differential in predicted verses actuals you can see why some are disappointed.

The good news is that Warner Brothers has a strong fall slate with Horrible Bosses 2 and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies on deck during the holidays, plus two Oscar-centric films starring Robert Downey Jr. (The Judge) and Reese Witherspoon (The Good Lie) in the mix as well.

Outside the studio, investors in Time Warner can take solace in the company's thriving TV subsidiary and look forward to success with HBO's final seasons of Boardwalk Empire and The Newsroom as well as a trio of new TNT series included the TV version of successful film franchise The Transporter.

Sony (NYSE:SNE)

Sony had high hopes for When The Game Stands Tall for a couple of reasons, namely it was an inspirational faith-based movie and those have done well this year. The success of movies like Son of God, Noah and Heaven Is For Real has made the studios bullish on this genre, plus with the exception of Noah, they are relatively cheap to make.

When The Game Stands Tall may be a little on the more expensive side at around $30 million, it shouldn't be too hard to ultimately re-coup the production costs for Sony. That said it's still disappointing as Tall will end the weekend in fifth place with $9 million while all of the previous faith-based films mentioned earlier opened in the top three with over $20 million. Granted Heaven took five days to do it, versus the others which did it in three, but it's unlikely a Wednesday start would have helped here.

Tall never hit the same critical acclaim of the others with the word "preachy" coming up a few times...that's not a good combo. Still this was a smart low-risk, high-reward venture and it didn't come anywhere near the level of disappointment that Sin City 2: A Dame To Kill For is bringing to executives at The Weinstein Company (privately held company). The much hyped sequel will open in eighth place with slightly less than $6.5 million.

Back to Sony though, investors are more likely paying more attention to the company's thriving video game division than its TV and film distribution. It's actually somewhat unfortunate as TV-wise the studio is behind mega-hits The Blacklist and (newly minted Emmy champ) Shark Tank and its summer film slate has three top summer performers on its including sequels The Amazing Spider-Man 2, 22 Jump Street and Think Like A Man Too.

Looking towards the fall the studio has five films on the horizon including the latest adaptation of famed musical Annie and the Oscar-friendly Brad Pitt action drama Fury, plus the Denzel Washington fronted adaptation (with a twist) of TV series The Equalizer. All in all it's been a solid year for Sony and there's no reason to think that won't continue into 2015.

Disclosure: The author has no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

The author wrote this article themselves, and it expresses their own opinions. The author is not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). The author has no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.