Earnings season is in full swing, with huge numbers of companies having already given their latest numbers to investors. The key to making smart investment decisions with stocks releasing their quarter reports is to anticipate how they'll do before they announce results, leaving you fully prepared to respond quickly to whatever inevitable surprises arise. That way, you'll be less likely to make an uninformed knee-jerk reaction to news that turns out to be exactly the wrong move.

Let's turn to Coinstar (NASDAQ:OUTR). The company has gone well beyond its change-counting machines to focus on movie rental kiosks, which have opened the door to a huge potential business. Let's take an early look at what's been happening with Coinstar over the past quarter and what we're likely to see in its quarterly report on Thursday.

Stats on Coinstar

Analyst EPS Estimate

$0.73

Change From Year-Ago EPS

(27%)

Revenue Estimate

$580 million

Change From Year-Ago Revenue

11.5%

Earnings Beats in Past 4 Quarters

4

Source: Yahoo! Finance.

Will Coinstar deliver great results?
Analysts have grown somewhat more optimistic over the past three months about Coinstar's prospects, raising their earnings-per-share estimates by a couple of pennies. The stock has also reflected that enthusiasm, with shares rising about 9% since early November.

The big story with Coinstar has come from its Redbox service, which took on Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) and its mail-delivery DVD service with 35,000 Redbox kiosks conveniently located in supermarkets and other high-traffic stores. Given Netflix's decision to de-emphasize the DVD side of its business, Coinstar has been able to capitalize, in part by picking up the Blockbuster Express DVD-machine business of NCR (NYSE:NCR) last year.

But the future of Coinstar may well depend on its Redbox Instant streaming service. Partnering up with Verizon (NYSE:VZ), the service has been plagued by delays and currently offers only a limited menu of titles, but Coinstar is hoping that providing credits for four kiosk rentals will help make its subscription price a better value proposition than Netflix's streaming-only offering.

The company will have new leadership to see it through the important transition, though, as CEO Paul Davis made a surprise announcement last month that he would retire at the end of March. CFO Scott Di Valerio will take over as CEO, but the move spooked investors, and Coinstar needs to do what it can to bolster investor confidence in light of the move.

Watch closely for Coinstar to reveal details about the Redbox Instant beta release as well as trends in its DVD business. Those two areas should give you more guidance on how much time the company has to make a transition before DVDs become obsolete.

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Fool contributor Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. You can follow him on Twitter @DanCaplinger. The Motley Fool recommends Netflix. The Motley Fool owns shares of Netflix. 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.