Feeling the love

Analysts single out Lionsgate, Marvel

A couple of smaller film studios have been getting some love from Wall Street analysts this earnings season, though their shares haven't yet benefited: Lionsgate Entertainment reported weak numbers last week and its stock has sunk a bit since; Marvel Entertainment reported strong numbers this week though its shares are also down slightly.

Lionsgate's shortfall was due to lousy television results, causing the company to report just 2 cents in per-share earnings, far below the 14 cents that Wedbush Morgan Securities analyst William Kidd had estimated.

Kidd, though, maintained his "strong buy" rating and $13 price target. Lionsgate shares closed Thursday at $9.04.

Miller Tabak analyst David Joyce agrees with the $13 assessment, and he increased his current quarter revenue estimate an impressive 22% to $404 million.

Most of that will come from feature films, with "Rambo" and "The Eye" already over $40 million and $26 million, respectively. He figures upcoming release "Witless Protection" is good for $13.5 million this quarter, "The Bank Job" for $24.4 million and "Meet the Browns" for $57.6 million.

Plus, Lionsgate's best DVD month in history happened in January, with strong sales for "War," "3:10 to Yuma," "Good Luck Chuck" and "Saw IV."

SMH Capital analyst David Miller is even more bullish, having set a $14.20 target on Lionsgate shares, partially because management itself predicted "record-breaking revenues and free cash flow" for the current quarter.

Miller also sees "the monetization of 10 different TV series on the air" this quarter. Plus, he says, Lionsgate "is the smallest of the seven major studios yet has the unappreciated distinction of having the largest film library, at approximately 5,600 titles."

Miller also is bullish on Marvel, setting a $34 target on shares that closed Thursday at $25.59.

"Marvel is a brand-name entertainment franchisor with a stable of 5,000+ characters that are some of the most recognizable in popular culture," he said.

Marvel has begun financing its own movies, a smart move, considering the success it has had in simply licensing its characters to the likes of Sony Pictures and 20th Century Fox.

Miller figures if Marvel's self-financed films earn roughly $150 million apiece in domestic boxoffice receipts, it "could add $1.33 per share to Marvel's core earnings profile over a four-year horizon."
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