How do you fix a bad year at the box office? If you're Sony (NYSE:SNE), you turn to Hollywood's top earner: Tom Hanks. Next weekend, the Oscar-winning actor comes to big screens in the titular role in Columbia Pictures' Captain Phillips.
Critics like what they see so far. Roughly 86% who've seen the film rate it as "fresh" at Rotten Tomatoes. Another 97% of 19,000-plus potential moviegoers say they're interested in the film, which depicts Hanks as a merchant ship captain battling for survival after his ship is hijacked by Somali pirates. Importantly, the film is based on the true story of the merchant ship Maersk Alabama, which was taken hostage in April 2009.
What can Sony investors expect from the film? Good results, I think. Here are three reasons I believe it will outperform:
1. Hanks and history. Box Office Mojo ranks the actor as the top-grossing star of all time, with 40 films accounting for $4.07 billion in U.S. box-office receipts, or $101.8 million per film. Eddie Murphy ($3.81 billion), Morgan Freeman ($3.71 billion), Samuel L. Jackson ($3.68 billion), and Harrison Ford ($3.66 billion) round out the rest of the top five. Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) produced and distributed two of Hanks' top five winners: Toy Story 3 and Toy Story 2. His biggest win for Sony is The Da Vinci Code, which earned $217.5 million at U.S. theaters and $758.2 million worldwide.
2. Weak competition. History says Open Road's Machete Kills, which opens the same weekend, could also do well. The sequel to 2010's Machete is reportedly working with twice the budget ($20 million). Doubling the first film's box office haul would bring in $88 million worldwide, a decent total but I'd guess within Captain Phillips' reach. Among the remainder, only Romeo & Juliet has a chance to have an impact ... on a certain video streaming service.
3. Globalization. Every industry is going global in some form and international trade over air, land, and sea is up substantially as a result. Captain Phillips explores the complex motives behind maritime piracy, which results in at least $5 billion in losses each year.
Add it up, and you've an engaging story headlined by an engaging actor. Enough, I think, to give Sony a badly needed box office win. Do you agree? Will you be seeing Captain Phillips next weekend? Leave a comment to let us know where you stand.
Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team and the Motley Fool Supernova Odyssey I mission. He owned shares of Walt Disney at the time of publication. Check out Tim's Web home and portfolio holdings, or connect with him on Google+, Tumblr, or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.
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