Box Office Bonanza or Bust in 2012?

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Overall, 2011 was a very forgettable year for the movie industry. Domestic box office declined 3.7% from a year earlier and 4.2% fewer tickets were sold overall. Other than the final installment of the Harry Potter series, the year offered very little in the way of memorable films.

There is hope in the industry that 2012 may break a two-year slide in domestic box office and bring moviegoers back out in droves. Well-known properties like Men in Black, Batman, Spiderman, and Dr. Seuss are making an appearance, and there are some hopeful contenders for breakout films.

IMAX (NYSE: IMAX  ) , for one, would love to see the return of box-office action. The company saw profits slide in 2011 after it rode Avatar to new heights in 2010. Here are a few of the films that may lift Hollywood and by extension IMAX in 2012:

  • The Avengers -- Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) is extending its Marvel collection with this film, which should perform well just based on fanboy box office.
  • The Dark Knight Rises -- Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy closes with what is sure to be among the top-grossing films of the year, if not #1.
  • Movies from Warner Brothers -- Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX  ) film unit is releasing Wrath of the Titans in March, a film that isn't getting a lot of love pre-release, and will follow with Dark Shadows and Gravity later in the year. Warner Brothers caps the year with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which may save the year.
  • Big franchises from Sony (NYSE: SNE  ) -- Men in Black III and The Amazing Spider-Man come out this summer. While neither film comes with the same hype as their predecessors, franchises like these still command a lot of box-office attention. And let's not forget about the 23rd installment of the James Bond series, Skyfall, due in November.
  • The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 -- The Twilight series will also come to an end this year. The first four have been very consistent and there's no reason to think the streak won't continue.

Action films appears to be alive and well and will dominate the 2012 box office. Whether that will inspire moviegoers, however, is yet to be determined.

Where's the 3-D?
A few big films will be released in 3-D in 2012, including Wrath of the Titans, Men in Black III, and The Avengers, but the industry focus on 3-D appears to be gone. It will be interesting to watch how RealD (NYSE: RLD  ) performs in 2012 with 3-D taking a bit of a back seat. I think 3-D quality will go up, but will it translate to better box office and stronger profits for the 3-D focused company?

The coming year poses a lot of questions that can be answered only at the box office.

Interested in reading more about the film industry? Add these stocks to MyWatchlist, and it will find all of our Foolish analysis on these stocks.

Fool contributor Travis Hoium owns shares of IMAX and Disney. You can follow Travis on Twitter at @FlushDrawFool, check out his personal stock holdings or follow his CAPS picks at TMFFlushDraw.

Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of IMAX and Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read/Post Comments (1) | Recommend This Article (4)

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On March 01, 2012, at 1:25 AM, KennysFishtruck wrote:

    This article fails to mention the movie related stock that has the biggest potential in 2012 - Lionsgate Films, LGF. LGF has 2 big catalysts this year:

    (1) The Hunger Games, based on a hugely popular book, has already sold a record breaking number of advance tickets on Fandango (besting Twilight). There are also two more books in the series to be made into films

    (2) Twilight. This past January, LGF acquired Summit Entertainment, the studio that owns Twilight for $412.5m. The last Twilight movie grossed over $700m worldwide and the next (and supposedly final) installment is slated for this November.

    Last year all LGF movies together grossed $299m worldwide. These 2 movies will dwarf that, even if they are bad movies and trashed by the critics. Also this year: The Expendables 2, a sequel to LGF's current all time highest grossing release.

    If you think that Harry Potter was the most memorable film of 2011, you definitely need to see more films. Although the domestic BO declined in 2011 it was still the 3rd best year on record and that was without an Avatar or Dark Knight

    FD: Long LGF, DIS

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