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Not Even "Blade Runner" Could Cut It at the Box Office

By Motley Fool Staff - Oct 12, 2017 at 11:25PM

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"Blade Runner 2049" was No. 1 in theaters but came up $20 million short of expectations.

In this segment from the Market Foolery podcast, host Chris Hill and Million Dollar Portfolio's Jason Moser check in on the status of Hollywood stocks, which were already having a dark 2017. Blade Runner 2049 enjoyed enormous buzz and amazing early reviews, and it was forecast to open with at least $50 million in ticket sales -- yet it pulled in only $31 million. If Harrison Ford and replicants can't deliver, all the studios and movie-theater chains need to worry.

A full transcript follows the video.

This video was recorded on Oct. 9, 2017.

Chris Hill: We have to start with the weekend box office. If you're a shareholder of movie-theater stocks, you have our condolences, because they're all down today because Blade Runner 2049, a movie with as much buzz around it as almost any movie in 2017 not named The Last Jedi, pretty disappointing, considering it won the weekend $31 million domestically. They were aiming for north of $50 million domestically. Right now, movie theaters are on track for a pretty mediocre to bad year. And it's not to say they can't pull out of it at the end here with some of the big releases coming, including The Last Jedi. But right now, this is a really tough space to be in.

Jason Moser: Yeah. You look at these companies, and you see the way they performed all year -- 2017 has been a brutal year for most everyone in the movie-theater business. You would think that at some point there's going to be an opportunity here to buy something that's of a compelling value. But honestly, I think it's plausible here that it may not actually be the case. Tell me what the tailwind is for these guys.

To me, I see movie theaters as becoming less compelling and relevant every day. It's not the same thing as when we were growing up. I think it's a lot more work to go to movie theaters nowadays. It's a neat experience to be able to see a movie in a theater. I'm not going to dis the actual experience. But it costs a lot of money to do. I don't think their pricing power goes on forever. I think there are a lot of options out there, a lot of competitors looking for our time. To me, there are a lot of headwinds that movie theaters are facing right now. I kind of feel like, we talked about that "war on cash" basket I have, I feel like you could probably put together a basket of these movie-theater stocks and short them all. And you'd probably come out all right at the end.

I don't know. I just don't know what the catalyst is that really turns around, other than the occasional good movie. I guess maybe we go to the movies once or twice a year now, as a family, maybe.

Hill: For me, it's probably a little bit more than that, but not much more. So in the last couple of months of 2017, you've got Justice League, Thor: Ragnarok, and The Last Jedi. And those are tentpole, your classic big summer movie blockbusters. But when we talk about margin for error, weekends like this with Blade Runner 2049, the more this type of thing happens, the more pressure it puts on the opening weekends for those three movies to not just be big. I saw an article over the weekend that Justice League, they're targeting somewhere in the neighborhood of $130 [million]-$140 million opening weekend. If you're in the business of being a movie theater, you'd better hope like hell they hit that. And the same for Thor: Ragnarok and The Last Jedi.

Moser: Yeah. I think you're right there. Certainly, all of the Star Wars movies in the coming years will serve as, I think they'll all generally do pretty well. There's a lot of superhero content out there, and I kind of wonder if we're not getting to a point where that stuff's getting a little bit diluted. But I also understand, very big fan bases for those as well. We're heading to the movies, I think, as a company. We had the opportunity to go see some movies on Friday. I was thinking I might see Blade Runner that day, just because we had the opportunity to do it, but I'm still not sure. [laughs] And that's free. It's free for me.

Hill: I was going to say, you're not paying a dime for that. Our company is paying for it.

Moser: It's like, do I really feel like getting off my butt and walking over there? I don't know, man.

Hill: In all seriousness, do you know what would absolutely get me to the movie theater on a regular basis? If some of these theaters started rolling out, pretty consistently, classic movies. If the theater that's just a few blocks from Fool HQ just announced, "Before Christmas, we're going to be showing The Godfather Part 2," just these movies that hold up over time, that I've seen a bunch of times, but have never once seen on the big screen.

Moser: That's a very good point.

Hill: I would absolutely do that.

Moser: It strikes me that we're seeing a lot of reboots, a lot of movies that were good, and they're going out there and remaking them for a new generation. I feel like Hollywood is really lacking right now for storylines. We talk about it all the time, and we'll probably talk about it a little bit more today -- there's so much great TV out there. You could sit there and watch any series, 10 episodes, there's 10 hours right there. So you have a lot of options out there today as a consumer. Wonderful time to be a consumer. Difficult time to be an owner of a movie theater, and I don't know that's going to get any better anytime soon.

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