Cowen Research analyst Doug Creutz thinks the soft summer box office season this year is evidence of a secular decline in domestic attendance as viewing habits evolve.
The analysis runs counter to the line of thought of some media analysts who think a weak and uninspiring summer slate is the culprit.
Creutz points out that the number of summer releases is in-line with historical averages, while box office bulls note tent-poles are spread out throughout the year more than in the past making the summer compare tougher.
On tap in 2015: Blockbuster releases next year include Star Wars: Episode VII (Lucasfilm), Avengers: Age of Ultron (Marvel), Fifty Shades of Grey (Universal), The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 (Lionsgate), The Good Dinosaur (Walt Disney Pictures), Bond 24 (Columbia).
The top 12 films in the U.S. took in $128.8M over the weekend to mark a 6% improvement over last year's corresponding haul.
U.S. box office sales for August are on track to set a record for the month.
The development gives some support to the argument that the weak box office in June and July was tied to a weak slate - not fundamental demand shifts.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (VIA, VIAB) and Guardian of the Galaxy (NYSE:DIS) took in $28.4M and $24.7M, respectively, to dominate the weekend - while Expendables 3 (NYSE:LGF) limped in with a disappointing $16.3M opening.
The solid trend continues for the film industry as weekend revenue for the top 12 movies rose 22% compared to the year-ago period to $173.6M. The month is tracking for a +$900M total, and could even topple $1B which would be the first time the level has ever been achieved in August.
Guardians of the Galaxy passed the $300M mark as the Marvel (NYSE:DIS) movie opened in dozens of countries over the weekend. The box office cume will go even higher after the film debuts in China and Japan.
Paramount Pictures (VIA, VIAB) had a stellar weekend after Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles hauled in $63.5M during its run at 3,845 U.S. location and $93.7M globally. Twenty-somethings came out in force due to the nostalgia factor, according to exit surveys. The studio has already announced that it will back a sequel for 2016.
Viacom (VIA, VIAB) issues a demand in federal court that its contact with Cablevision (NYSE:CVC) be rescinded.
The legal filing is in response to an anti-trust lawsuit filed by Cablevision against Viacom.
The crux of the dispute between the media companies is over whether Viacom tried to muscle Cablevision into including smaller networks with its well-known properties in bundled packages.
Cablevision wants the court to force Viacom into licensing MTV, Comedy Central, and Nickelodeon without non-core networks - while Viacom is looking for relief that would see its content pulled from Cablevision.
Marvel's (NYSE:DIS) Guardians of the Galaxy is on track to open with a weekend box office haul of $92M-$96M after sales came in extremely strong for Thursday and Friday.
The superhero movie could have some staying power based on its solid A CinemaScore rating and a 92% Rotten Tomatoes score.
The vibrant performance for Guardians comes at an opportune time for the movie industry with July theater ticket sales coming in at their lowest level since 1995 at $572M and at a paltry $14.3M per movie release.
Though some media analysts have pointed toward an oncoming seismic shift in how consumers want to view movies, Wunderlich Securities analyst Matthew Harrigan says an uninspiring film slate is the culprit. 2015 should see a bounce-back with The Avengers sequel, a James Bond movie, and the Star Wars reboot all on the release calendar.
Though Time Warner (TWX +16.7%) CEO Jeffrey Bewkes posted a video on the company's blog in which he resoundingly rejects the offer from 21st Century Fox (FOXA -3.5%), there's a line of though amongst media analysts that the response is part of choreographed song-and-dance.
Deadline.com notes former Murdoch confidante Gary Ginsberg is now a top lieutenant for Bewkes and could be the key man in brokering a deal.
Ripple#1: A combination of the two companies could light a fire under M&A activity in the media sector between content producers (DISCA, LGF, AMCX, SNI, VIA, VIAB) and tech heavyweights such as Google, Apple, or Sony which haven't pulled the trigger yet on a mega-content deal.
Ripple #2: Two companies in the cross-hairs of a TWX-FOXA combination are Disney (DIS -1%) which could see ESPN lose a little bit of leverage with TNT and TBS linked with Fox Sports and Netflix (NFLX -1%) where a challenge from HBO in more global markets would be likely.
21st Century Fox (NASDAQ:FOXA) will pay as much as $85 per share for Time Warner (NYSE:TWX), according to Bloomberg.
The frothy premium hasn't gone unnoticed in the broadcaster sector with CBS (NYSE:CBS) up 1.6% premarket and Viacom (VIA, VIAB) rising 1.8%. Murdoch's 21st Century Fox is 1.7% higher, while even media giants Disney (NYSE:DIS) and Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) are catching a piece of the frenzy, up 0.7% and 0.9% premarket, respectively.
TWX is in dreamland, up +20.2% to $85.32.
It's setting up to be a banner day for the PowerShares Dynamic Media ETF (NYSEARCA:PBS).
The running box office tally of $225.1M for the Paramount (VIA, VIAB) film beat out Avatar which took in $221.9M.
What to watch: The development is viewed as favorable for IMAX (IMAX), but could lead to some issues for upcoming films Dawn of the Planet of the Apes from 20th Century Fox and Disney's Guardians of the Galaxy if Chinese regulators crack down a bit to give local titles a better chance to succeed in the wake of the Transformers box office landslide.
Barclay analyst Kannan Venkateshwar's dour view on Viacom (VIA, VIAB) is based in part on the younger audience for the company's Nickelodean and MTV channels that is increasingly moving to digital platforms.
Venkateshwar also notes the increased level of buybacks at Viacom limit the flexibility of the company to invest in its core business.
Viacom Inc is an entertainment content company that connects with audiences in over 160 countries and territories and creates television programs, motion pictures, short-form video, applications , games, consumer products, social media.