It was another winning season on Broadway. Ticket revenue soared 9% to a record $939 million, according to the League of American Theaters and Producers. With higher attendance accompanying buoyant ticket prices, the industry has earned its standing ovation.
However, you won't find Broadway.com heading out for a bow or curtsy before the parted curtain. Its parent company, Hollywood Media
This doesn't mean that live theater buffs are shunning Broadway.com like counterfeit Jersey Boys tickets. If anything, the website is the biggest beneficiary of stage shows' surging success.
Hollywood Media posted its first-quarter results earlier this month. Broadway ticketing revenue soared by 30% to hit $24 million. Despite the West Coast celluloid moniker, Broadway.com now accounts for 85% of Hollywood's revenue.
Obviously, Broadway.com is growing even faster than Broadway itself. It's a shrewd combination of folks migrating to the Internet to score advance ticket purchases, and Broadway.com's ability to offer packages that include meals at nearby eateries and a partnership with Hilton
The reason that shares haven't taken off like a rocket have to do with company's inability to profit from its bubbling popularity. Between costs for establishing Theatre.com as a destination for London's West End shows, absorbing the recent Showtix ticketing business acquisition, and redundant leases as the company shuffles its New York offices, there are bigger bills to pay. Instead of thriving as a profitable concern, Hollywood Media is an anomaly among dot-com survivors: a profitless wonder posting wider deficits, even as its top line expands.
Many of the recent shortcomings are transitional. Buyouts get absorbed. Redundant overhead is shaved. Losses in London turn into profits, or Theatre.com fetches a queen's ransom in the domain resale market.
So if many of Hollywood Media's wrongs are destined to be righted, the 15% of the company's business that isn't Broadway-related has to stink. Right? Wrong. The company owns flick portal Hollywood.com, and it's one of the many companies behind MovieTickets.com.
Surely you've heard the buzz about the record-breaking summer season at the multiplex? Spider-Man 3, Shrek the Third, and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End have set the upbeat tone. Popcorn-munchers are turning to MovieTickets.com for ticket presales to make sure that they're not turned away by the "Sold Out" sign at the local theater, and the rest of the summer slate appears promising.
MovieTickets.com reached 8.5 million unique visitors in March, and traffic should continue to heat up. Between film ticketing revenue and selling ads on Hollywood.com, this company's riding all the right coattails.
However, the stock is getting stomped by investors troubled by a lack of immediate profitability to accompany this rosy scenario. They're right to a certain degree. Hollywood Media has posted deficits wider than analysts anticipated in each of the past three quarters, and in 10 of the past 11 quarters. This is the company's time to shine, and it's flubbing its best lines.
I've been burned in praising Hollywood Media's previous prospects. I singled out the stock back in November as one of four attractive dot-com bargains trading in the single digits. It made the cut as one of my "10 Stocks Under $10" for 2007 back in February.
The stock is trading higher since I pegged it as an outperformer in Motley Fool CAPS back in September, but it's actually trailed the market's headier gains.
So why would I go out on a limb again? Well, I think the downside might be limited at this point. The company hired JPMorgan Chase to explore strategic alternatives back in March. Even if the company's original goal is to secure bids for some of its lesser properties, I wouldn't be surprised if a suitor offered to buy the company whole.
Tell me that a trigger-happy company like IAC/InterActiveCorp's
Even though Hollywood Media has a history of disappointing analysts and investors, it's growing quickly enough to catch the admiring eyes of proven players. Or as Annie would sing, the sun will come out tomorrow.
CNET Networks is one of many fast-growing recommendations from the Motley Fool Rule Breakers newsletter service. Time Warner is a Stock Advisor pick, while JPMorgan Chase got the nod from Income Investor. Screen any of our newsletters with a 30-day free trial. (Save your applause for the end.)
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz was a stagehound during his elementary-school days, winning an honorable mention award for his role in Frabjous Friends. He's never bothered to memorize lines since. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. Rick is part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.