Time Warner Stock Rises as Analysts Weigh 'Batman v Superman' Release

Courtesy of Warner Bros.

After a $170.1 million U.S. debut, investors eye a DC superhero universe sparking a 2016 turnaround for Warner Bros. after 2015 flops.

Time Warner's stock rose Monday morning after Warner Bros. got a welcome win at the weekend box office with a critic-proof Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Zack Snyder's superhero team-up film, in which the caped crusader battles the man of steel, bowed to a giant $170.1 million from 4,242 theaters and also made history globally with a $424.1 million opening. It's a step in the right direction for the studio that endured a string of 2015 flops.

Time Warner shares opened on the New York Stock Exchange on Monday up $1.13, or 1.5 percent, to $71.14. At mid-day, shares had climbed still further by $2.17, or 3 percent, to $72.05. On Friday, they closed at $69.94.

Over the past year, the stock has traded as low as $55.53 and as high as $91.34 after fears of continuing cord-cutting have weighed down the media conglomerate's stock. Batman v Superman's mega-opening reverses in the minds of analysts box office duds last year for Warner Bros. like Pan, Jupiter Ascending, In the Heart of the Sea and Man From U.N.C.L.E.

And a strong launch for the Justice League origin story could right the studio's ship with a lucrative DC superhero universe unfolding with Suicide Squad, the second major DC crossover in 2016; Wonder Woman and The Justice League in 2017; and The Flash and Aquaman in 2018.

"Batman v Superman is the most premier DC Comics IP and, despite weak reviews, the strong box office and relatively good CinemaScores in the core demo bode well for the expansion of the IP," Stifel analyst Ben Mogil wrote in a report. Macquarie Capital analyst Tim Nollen agreed DC Comics' future hinges on the Batman v. Superman film launching a successful franchise.

"...Batman v. Superman is the kick-off for 10 total DC Comics films to come in the next 6 years, as well as up to 12 new TV series and at least 3 new video games  — so getting this one right is essential to the success of this entire franchise," Nollen wrote. After a disappointing 2015, Matthew Harrigan, an analyst at Wunderlich Securities, predicted a 2016 turnaround for Warner Bros., especially with DC Entertainment superhero movies as a draw for HBO subscribers.

"Warner Bros. and HBO should emerge as major winners into the next decade, even as Turner admittedly has more execution risk — especially for original and syndicated scripted programming," Harrigan wrote in his note. Batman v Superman dominating the weekend box office also promises to help supersize Hollywood's 2016 business at the multiplex, MKM Partners analyst Eric Handler said Monday in his own investors note.

"Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice propels 1Q16 box office above projections," Handler said, noting the Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill-starrer set a March box office record, marked a new domestic opening weekend high for Warner Bros. and recorded the sixth best all-time opening in North America.

March 28, 12:15 p.m. Updated with mid-day stock price for Time Warner.

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