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About Everything: The Decline of the Film Industry & Its Investing Implications

Why moviemaking is a declining industry.

 

Editor's Note: In this complimentary edition of About Everything, Hedgeye Demography Sector Head Neil Howe discusses why the movie industry is in decline and breaks down the broader implications for investors.

 

About Everything: The Decline of the Film Industry & Its Investing Implications - z hw

WHAT’S HAPPENING?

The film industry is struggling. Ticket sales have been on a downward tilt since 2002, and this year U.S. theaters are on pace to sell the fewest tickets per capita of any year since before the 1920s.

 

About Everything: The Decline of the Film Industry & Its Investing Implications - neil 1

 

If it were just a matter of disappointing ticket sales, that would be bad enough. But other important metrics also paint a picture of an industry in decline.

 

For one, an ever-smaller share of movies accounts for an ever-larger portion of box office sales. Plus, films make up a shrinking share of sales for most top media companies. Walt Disney (DIS) now earns just 13% of its revenue from movies, down from roughly a quarter in 2005. Viacom (VIAB), which owns Paramount Pictures, gets 22% of its revenue from movies, down from 36% as recently as 2010. That share could decline even further if the company’s talks to offload a 49% stake in Paramount go through.

 

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About Everything: The Decline of the Film Industry & Its Investing Implications - neil 3

 

Meanwhile, sales have stagnated over the past three years for 20th Century Fox (FOXA), Columbia Pictures (SNE), and Warner Bros. Pictures (TWX). Smaller players that specialize in film like Lionsgate Films (LGF) and DreamWorks Animation (DWA) have seen their sales slide as well.

 

All told, forecasters and media outlets are bearish on the industry, saying that 2016 may end up being the worst year ever for movies. Yikes.

WHY IT’S HAPPENING: DRIVERS

Better competition from TV. Back in 1961 when TV programming was considered a “vast wasteland” (in the famous words of FCC Chairman Newton Minow), there was a vast quality gap between television and movies. But that gap has narrowed dramatically in recent decades. Some might even say the gap has reversed.

 

Additionally, high-end networks now upload an entire season’s worth of shows all at once. Which means that these shows are meant to be binge-watched—and thus are even designed more like movies. In 40 continuous hours, a TV show can boast more complex plotting and deeper subtext than would be possible in any single movie.

 

More competition from other media. The slate of players vying for people’s attention is constantly expanding. Movies have got mobile apps, video games, and the vast universe of screened entertainment as a whole to contend with. (Video game industry sales overtook box office sales roughly a decade ago. Today, the margin is more than 2 to 1.)

 

Paid subscription services like Netflix and Hulu have created a whole new world where would-be theatergoers can find the same high-quality entertainment at a low price from the comfort of their bedrooms. Not to mention the countless free options—think YouTube and Snapchat (yes, Snapchat has its own scripted programming)—that provide hours of entertainment for just the price of an Internet connection.

 

Generational change. Call it the great age divide: Theatergoing has been falling most among younger age brackets. Indeed, over the last few years, more than the entire decline has occurred among the younger age brackets that have historically fueled box office sales. From 2012 to 2015, the total number of “frequent” moviegoers (those who attend once a month or more) decreased among 12- to 17-year-olds, 18- to 24-year-olds, and 25- to 39-year-olds. Attendance among older audiences, meanwhile, is up: Over the same period, the number of frequent moviegoers grew among 50- to 59-year olds and the 60+.

 

About Everything: The Decline of the Film Industry & Its Investing Implications - neil 4

 

Aftermarket cannibalizing of the box office. Originally, filmmakers used video sales to grab an extra slice of revenue from consumers who weren’t willing to pay to see a movie in theaters. But now, this strategy works against the film industry. Today’s consumers expect to see a movie on store shelves (or in their Netflix queues) within weeks of it leaving theaters. With the exception of the very biggest blockbuster hits, most big-screen releases now register a resounding “meh, I’ll just wait” from consumers.

 

About Everything: The Decline of the Film Industry & Its Investing Implications - callout

HOW STUDIOS ARE RESPONDING

Going old. Many moviemakers are catering to graying audiences by producing high-quality, thoughtful, and often transgressive films—usually about older people. Boomers have been avid media consumers their entire lives. As they moved into middle age, they fueled a golden age of G-rated cartoons for their kids. Today, these aging film connoisseurs are buying tickets to see grittier, introspective films starring older actors whose characters’ lives are in shambles (à la Youth, featuring Michael Caine). According to GfK MRI, the number of 65+ movie-goers is up 67% since 1995. And you wonder why richly meaningful films that might have been directed by Coppola, Altman, Lumet, or Polanski are still box office draws?

 

About Everything: The Decline of the Film Industry & Its Investing Implications - neil 5

 

Going young: reboots and sequels. While many Boomers consider remakes uncreative and formulaic, plenty of Millennials don’t mind the lack of originality. Over the past decade, series like Transformers have dominated the top box office spots. And with studios creating fewer, more expensive films (with more explosions than intellectual content), these crowd-pleasers with built-in audiences reduce some of filmmaking’s risks.

 

But beware: Even sequels are not a guaranteed proposition. Over the past six months, high-profile titles like X-Men: Apocalypse and Allegiant have tanked at the box office.

 

Going young: whiz-bang technology at the theater. Some film giants are using cutting-edge tech to draw Millennials to the movies. Paramount is reportedly in talks with IMAX to create VR movies. (Care to watch the action from any angle?) Meanwhile, Lions Gate Entertainment and 21st Century Fox have agreed to sell movies via Oculus’s online store.

 

However, it’s too early to tell whether VR moviemaking is a promising growth strategy or a passing fad. Remember 3-D movies? Plenty once picked that as the “next big thing.”

 

Going abroad. This may be the safest bet for today’s moviemakers. From 2010 to 2015, the U.S./Canadian share of global box office revenues slid from 33% to 28%. While this may not seem like much of a decline, it leaves China in line to become the largest movie market in the world by 2017.

 

About Everything: The Decline of the Film Industry & Its Investing Implications - neil 6

 

Walt Disney Pictures is leading the way in overseas markets. The film giant accounts for four of the five highest-grossing films imported to China in 2016. This accomplishment puts Disney on track to be the first Hollywood studio to make $1 billion in one year at the (highly regulated) Chinese box office. Disney even plans to have a branded film in production in China by the end of the year.

 

Meanwhile, India’s movie audience is also growing at a breakneck pace. In 2015, the top 10 Hollywood releases in India collected about $98 million at the box office—a single-year jump of 34%.

 

To be sure, even this strategy has its ceiling. High-speed Internet is already beginning to reach these foreign moviegoers. Over time, films will have to compete with the same low-priced, high-quality alternatives that have been hurting the U.S. box office. Netflix is now available in 190 countries worldwide. As the company stocks up on foreign-language movies—and as competitors follow suit—it will mean trouble for the movie industry.

BROADER IMPLICATIONS

Go long on companies that can synergize many media. Once upon a time, a successful movie stood on its own. Today, it is only one avenue by which a branded character or story is delivered to audiences: Along with the movie, there is the book, the song, the videogame, the theme park, the clothing, the toy merchandise, and so on. In the movie industry, the biggest players own the most successful movie franchises. Universal has Harry Potter. Disney has Pixar, Lucasfilm, and Marvel Comics. Warner Bros. has DC Comics. And Lionsgate has The Hunger Games and Divergent series.

 

Major players like Universal and Disney thus have the edge over smaller players like Columbia and 20th Century Fox that don’t have successful franchises or theme parks. And in a world where standalone films aren’t selling, the biggest losers will be independent filmmakers. Inevitably, these smaller shops will have to transition to TV production and on-line branded entertainment—taking a hit on their market value as they go. And some will be gobbled up, leading to more concentration in the industry. NBCUniversal, for example, plans to acquire DreamWorks Animation by the end of the year.

 

Expect movie theater operators to be hit hardest. While studios are still able to profit when movies hit pay-per-view, movie theater operators miss out entirely. To stay afloat, many of the larger ones are buying up smaller competitors to enhance economies of scale.

 

These companies are also doubling down on amenities. Regal has invested in 4DX technology, which gives younger audiences an immersive experience complete with bumps, wind, and fog.

 

But at this point, there’s probably more money to be made chasing older audiences. Many theater chains are trying to woo Boomers with a deluxe high-margin, high-touch theatergoing experience. In 2014, AMC Theaters announced that it would be spending $600 million to install reclining leather seats in some of its theaters. Others are offering dine-in services for a lavish (hors d’oeuvres and vintage wine) “dinner and a movie” experience.

TAKEAWAYS

  • By any measure, the film industry is hurting. Thanks to the massive amount of quality content available to today’s consumers at low (or no) cost, many would-be theatergoers—especially Millennials—are staying home.
  • Studios are trying everything to remain viable. But most of their strategies—whether rolling out sequels or searching abroad for profits—have downside risk. Bet on the largest companies to ride the wave of their star franchises and outlast their smaller competitors.

CALL INVITE | Brexit Implications – A 360° Analysis

Takeaway: Friday, July 22nd at 11:00AM EST

Hedgeye Potomac, in conjunction with the international law firm of Squire Patton Boggs, will be hosting a series of calls on Brexit and will first examine the legal and procedural implications.  

 

With Prime Minister Theresa May now formally installed at 10 Downing Street, we will discuss with Squire’s Brexit Task Force the events following the UK’s exit vote from the EU and what the outcome of the vote spells for the UK and the rest of the world.

 

The call will take place on July 22nd at 11:00AM EST with prepared remarks followed by Q&A.

 

KEY TOPICS ON THE CALL WILL INCLUDE

  • The timing and procedure of the withdrawal, and future negotiations between the UK and the EU
  • The consequences for UK, EU and US companies arising from the end of the application of EU Freedoms, Mutual Recognition, Passports and other privileges
  • Consequences under the domestic laws of the UK and the remaining 27 Member States
  • What happens to International Agreements entered into by the EU
  • What you need to know when entering into new contracts after June 23, 2016 and what you should do with respect to existing contracts
  • Labor, Employment and Immigration
  • What alternatives are available to the UK, including WTO, EFTA, EEA, Swiss-Style, Free Trade Agreements

 

ABOUT SQUIRE PATTON BOGGS

 

Squire Patton Boggs is a full service global law firm that provides insight at the point where law, business and government meet. Squire Patton Boggs consists of over 1,500 lawyers in 45 offices across 21 countries.

 

Squire Patton Boggs’ Brexit Task Force is a multi-disciplinary team of lawyers and policy advisers who are uniquely placed to support clients from across the globe on the effects Brexit will have on business.

 

The Public Policy teams, particularly in Brussels and Washington, D.C., consist of top tier lawyers with considerable public policy experience - which helps them provide seamless and coordinated discussions with the relevant authorities.

 

 

CALL DETAILS

 

Toll Free:

Toll:

UK: 0

Confirmation Number: 13641782

 


Christman: What Comes Next After The Failed Coup In Turkey

Editor's NoteBelow is a complimentary research note written over the weekend by Hedgeye Potomac National Security analyst LTG Dan Christman USA Ret. 

 

Christman: What Comes Next After The Failed Coup In Turkey - erdogan

 

The coup attempt to oust President Erdogan has clearly failed; clashes evidently are still occurring at some naval bases, but plotters and insurgents have either been arrested, died in the attempt, or are fleeing to nearby countries (Greece) and are seeking asylum.

 

The White House, Secretary Kerry, Chancellor Merkel, and the EU's leadership all aligned reasonably early in the crisis to signal support for Erdogan; and the Turkish president also quickly won the support of "Turks in the street." As much as some U.S. analysts last evening were breathlessly hoping for the coup to succeed, it seemed poorly planned and lacked substantial support even within the military; it also failed to reckon with the fact that, despite the increasingly authoritarian behavior of Erdogan, his muzzling of the press and key opponents, and his creeping Islamization, he was (in the words of Fareed Zakharia) the most popular Turkish politician since Ataturk.

 

What next?

 

First and most obviously, US support for the government in terms of foreign military sales (FMS) and broader security and economic assistance will continue; Turkish bases are simply too important for the US in its fight against ISIS to be put at risk.

 

Second, however, the coup will play into Erdogan's increasing paranoia will do nothing to arrest the Putin-like moves of the Turkish president to assert even greater executive authority, at the fringes of constitutionality. Initial statements from the president and his AK party highlight this; they blame the entire episode last night on the "Pocono imam," Fethullah Gulen, a former ally of Erdogan who is now a vocal critic and living in Pennsylvania. 

 

Finally, and related, expect a harsh crackdown, not just on the military, but on domestic critics as well, as order is restored. 

 

All of this complicates the anti-ISIS coalition and the war against Islamic extremism; it may however, give the US and the EU an opportunity to encourage Erdogan to bridge his differences with the Kurds. Their separatist party, the PKK, was, ironically, amongst the first of the opposition parties to voice their support for the embattled president last night. Hard to figure.


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McCullough: Buy The All-Time High?

In this excerpt from The Macro Show this morning, Hedgeye CEO Keith McCullough cautions subscribers and advises what investors should consider as U.S. equities hit an all-time high.


INSTANT INSIGHT: An Update On Our #CreditCycle Call

Takeaway: At the current default rate, 2016 is on track to surpass the 2009 all-time corporate bankruptcy high.

INSTANT INSIGHT: An Update On Our #CreditCycle Call - The Cycle cartoon 05.12.2016

 

As U.S. equity markets hit all-time highs, subtly simmering beneath the surface, the bond market is telling an entirely different story about the state of the U.S. economy.

 

According to the Financial Times:

 

"Global defaults hit the milestone century mark last week, a 50% jump from the number of delinquencies at the same point last year and the highest level since the US emerged from recession in 2009.

 

The number rose by four to 100 in the first full week of July, as defaults in the US oil and gas sector ratcheted higher, according to Diane Vazza of S&P Global Ratings.

 

That brings the amount that has been defaulted on to $154 billion."

 

(**S&P Global Ratings now predicts the default rate by junk-rated companies in the U.S. will climb to 5.3% by March 2017, up from 3.8% a year earlier.)

 

More disconcerting still, at the current default rate, 2016 is on track to surpass the 2009 all-time corporate bankruptcy high. 

 

INSTANT INSIGHT: An Update On Our #CreditCycle Call - global corp defaults

Meanwhile...

 

"The asymmetry between Rising Stars (potential for upgrade) & Fallen Angels (downgraded to Junk) in U.S. Credit continues," Hedgeye Financials analyst Jonathan Casteleyn wrote earlier today.

 

INSTANT INSIGHT: An Update On Our #CreditCycle Call - rising star fallen angel

More to be revealed.

 

**To read more of our #CreditCycle work check out:

 


NFLX | New Trade Idea (Long)

Takeaway: This is just a short-term trade on what we believe to be a bullish setup into the 2Q16 print. Bearish thesis remains the same.

SUMMARY

We published a note last night discussing our thoughts into NFLX’s 2Q16 earnings release (same bullets below in case you missed it).  In short, we expect that strength in int’l net sub adds on the 2Q print/3Q guide to alleviate growing concerns around the longer-term NFLX story; most of which were introduced by the 2Q16 guidance release.  Granted, we expect the 3Q guide for US net subs to disappoint, but we don’t see that as a major headwind given the heightened level negative sentiment around the US story today.  We suspect the street would look past a miss on the 3Q US net subs guide as long as it isn’t worse than the 2Q guide; especially if NFLX produces upside to its 2Q US net adds metric as we expect, and more importantly shows progress with the int’l story.  In short, the Int'l story is now the new battleground in the name since it's the barometer to NFLX's longer-term viability given perceived pressures in the US.  That said, given the growing wave of negative sentiment around the story, we suspect the stock works as long as int'l works. 

 

 

nflx | THOUGHTS INTO THE PRINT (2q16)

  1. THESIS RECAP: We doubt NFLX will be able to sustain its model and/or the breadth of its content offering, and that's it 2016 ROW launch will put that into context over 2016/2017.  We see NFLX’s contractual obligations as a considerably understated proxy for the ongoing cost of running its business rather than a distinct set of milestones; especially since its content outlays profile more as recurring quarterly expenses rather than asset purchases.  That said, the viability of its model is dependent on its ability to realize its user TAM.  However, our analysis of the US market suggests it may only have limited near-term runway, making the int’l expansion story crucial.  NFLX has essentially accelerated the test case for whether that story will work into 2016/2017 with its ROW launch, so we suspect the story may be coming to a head this year.  If Int'l starts sputtering out, we suspect the hype around the longer-term story fizzles out, and the multiple gets sucked out of the stock.
  2. US DOES APPEAR TO BE UNDER PRESSURE: Consensus is expecting net subscriber adds to decline -41% y/y to 532K in 2Q (vs. guidance of 500K), followed by a -12% decline in 3Q.  Our trackers are suggesting that the US did decline at a decelerating rate in 2Q, but not quite at the pace implied by guidance/consensus.  The 3Q guide may be a different story though since consensus is expecting a considerable moderation in the y/y decline in US net adds, and our tracker suggests only marginal improvement in the y/y trend in 3Q vs. 2Q.  Granted it’s still early in 3Q, but given that NFLX reports so early in the quarter, we suspect mgmt would need to take a big leap of faith in order to guide consensus domestic 3Q net adds.  We’re expecting 2Q net adds to come in at roughly 650K, with the 3Q guide slightly below that (vs. consensus of 774K).
  3. BUT INT’L LOOKS MUCH BETTER: Consensus is expecting net adds to decline -11% y/y to 2.1M in 2Q (vs. guidance of 2.0M), followed by a 4% increase in 3Q.  Remember that NFLX hasn’t annualized past all of its 2015 country launches yet, so a y/y decline in 2Q seems overdone, especially considering its 2016 ROW launch.  While our trackers are pointing to decelerating 2Q growth, we’re not seeing declines outside of a few notable countries (UK, CA, AU), but that is being largely offset by elevated growth throughout Latin America.  Our trackers also suggest that those two themes are largely extending early into 3Q as well, however the decline in those countries mentioned above is moderating, while Latin American growth remains elevated, if not accelerating in certain countries on a y/y basis QTD.  Collectively, we’re expecting int’l net adds to approach 3M in 2Q, with the 3Q guide coming in around 3.5M (vs. consensus of 2.85M)
  4. 2Q16 = BULLISH SETUP? We suspect that sentiment around the US story is fairly muted at this point, so attention has shifted toward the int’l markets as the proxy for whether the longer-term NFLX story has any legs.  In turn, we suspect if int’l works then than the stock could work as well.  We know we’re not alone in expecting upside to 2Q int’l net sub adds, but the 3Q guide hasn’t gotten as much attention.  If NFLX guides to a 3-handle for 3Q int’l net sub adds, we suspect the int’l story will find rekindled optimism following the shell shock from the 2Q guide, which would likely appear as a hiccup and/or sandbag in retrospect.  Regarding the US story, it’s tougher to gauge how sentiment tracks from here since we’re expecting a miss on the 3Q net sub adds guide, which could propel the bear case around potential churn from NFLX’s planned price increases.  But we suspect the street could look past a miss on US net sub adds as long as the 3Q guide isn’t worse than the 2Q guide, especially if NFLX produces upside to its 2Q net adds metric as we expect, and more importantly shows promise around the int’l story.   

 

See the notes below for supporting detail around our thesis.  Let us know if you have any questions, or would like to discuss further.

 

Hesham Shaaban, CFA
Managing Director


@HedgeyeInternet

 

 

NFLX | Good vs. Bad (US User Survey)
06/09/16 10:41 AM EDT
[click here

 

NFLX | Breaking Down Content Costs
05/26/16 08:14 AM EDT
[click here


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