Shares of National CineMedia (NCMI -6.27%) came back to life on Monday, trading 15.6% higher as of 3:30 p.m. EDT. The struggling stock took a rare leap upward thanks to a stronger-than-expected first-quarter report.
The leading provider of pre-show advertising for the silver screen saw first-quarter sales rise 8% year over year, landing at $80.2 million. On the bottom line, the year-ago period's $0.02 loss per share increased to an adjusted net loss of $0.03 per share. The analyst consensus was calling for a net loss of $0.05 per share on something like $75 million in top-line revenues.
Early 2018 has been jam-packed with advertiser-friendly blockbuster fare, and that's obviously good news for in-theater advertising managers like National CineMedia. Eyeball magnets like Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War have been kind to the movie industry in general, offering a break from a multi-year downward trend in ticket sales.
The company is also trying out some new ideas, including an ad management platform that lets advertisers place their screen-time orders much closer to the desired screening dates than before. So far, so good as ad clients have responded with an influx of last-minute orders in the early going -- but again, much of that action was probably motivated by a handful of good-looking blockbusters.
It's nice to see some positive news around this long-suffering company, but I would still be uncomfortable with investing in National CineMedia. The company needs to prove that its newfound strength is sustainable and that it can survive a dry spell with fewer surefire audience favorites. All told, the stock is still trading 24% lower over the last 52 weeks and 61% lower in a five-year perspective.