Attention all muggles, wizards, and fans of Harry Potter: there are more stories and thrills to come for the franchise that grossed more than $7 billion worldwide. Fans will be happy to check out new movies and theme park attractions. Investors should be excited about the possibilities coming for Time Warner (NYSE: TWX ) and Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA ) .
More Harry Potter movies = high box office for Time Warner
Daniel Radcliffe isn't heading back to the big screen to reprise his role of Harry Potter. The popular franchise is getting a new trilogy, however, based on the "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" book. The first movie will be set 70 years prior to the first Harry Potter film and will hit theaters on Nov. 18, 2016.
Time Warner CEO Kevin Tsujihara persuaded Potter author J.K. Rowling to turn the "Fantastic Beasts" plot into a movie. It helps that the prior eight movies grossed $2.4 billion in domestic markets and $5.3 billion in international theaters. The films averaged almost a billion dollars each in box office revenue. The most recent film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, grossed $381 million in domestic markets and over $1.3 billion worldwide. The film ranks as the fourth-highest grossing movie of all time worldwide.
The strength of Harry Potter led to many successful years of box office dominance for Time Warner. The movies released in 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, and 2011 all led the box office their respective years, with the exception of 2011. In fact, Time Warner has only failed to lead the box office in three years since 2001.
Time Warner saw revenue increase 4% to $29.8 billion in the last fiscal year. The Warner Brothers film division made up $12.3 billion of that total. Despite shares of Time Warner trading close to 52-week highs, there are two big reasons investors should get excited about the company's future. The addition of Fantastic Beasts in 2016 now makes the year one to remember for the company, going along with the highly anticipated Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Batman vs. Superman is one of several DC Comics adaptations coming in the future, which will help pad box office profits going forward.
Later in June, Time Warner will finally split off its underperforming Time division, which owns several popular magazines. Time has seen revenue and profits decline, and stripping away this division will help Time Warner's growth and operating margins going forward.
Comcast sees lift in Theme Park segment via Harry Potter
The strength of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando is leading the expansion of the Comcast segment. Soon, the two Florida Universal theme parks will be connected via the Hogwarts Express, a train themed around the train in the Harry Potter movies. By 2016, a new $200 million expansion at the Universal theme park in California will include Harry Potter rides and attractions.
Universal theme parks play a minimal part to Comcast's annual revenue and operating profits. While the theme park segment won't overtake other important Comcast segments, it will continue to see strong growth going forward, with several international deals still in play. A theme park in Japan will have the first international version of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, with a cost of $500 million and an opening date in late 2014. Theme park expansion continues with planned Universal Studios parks in South Korea , Dubai, and Beijing .
The theme park in China may be one of the biggest items in Universal's theme park segment. Disney is set to open Disneyland Shanghai by the end of 2015. Not to be outdone, a Universal park is set to open in January of 2018, with construction scheduled to start the end of 2014. Universal has partnered with Beijing Tourism Group and should see a substantial return on their investment as the park opens and sees strong attendance numbers.
In fiscal 2013, Comcast saw revenue grow 3.3% to $64.7 billion. Theme parks saw strong growth of 7.2% to $2.2 billion. While theme parks make up only three percent of revenue, the operating cash flow comes closer to 6% thanks to strong growth of 5.3% in fiscal 2013. First quarter revenue also grew 5.4% in the theme park division, thanks to an increase in per capital spending. The company cited strong performance for the fiscal year "driven by continued success of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter."
Theme park attendance should continue to pick up for Universal as more Harry Potter rides and attractions are built. The theme park segment should continue to see increased revenue and operating profits as more international parks are built where Universal acts as more of a partner that gets licensing fees. Time Warner continues to be a strong media bet for upcoming growth. With a stable backlog of DC Comics-related movies, the addition of the "Fantastic Beasts" trilogy adds to an exciting blockbuster potential for the company and shares of Time Warner going forward.
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