Lions Gate Entertainment seized a pot of gold.
When the film and television production company bought Summit Entertainment in January, the deal brought bankable teen franchises "The Hunger Games" and "Twilight" under one roof.
The first of four planned "Hunger Games" films broke the record for a non-sequel over the weekend with a $153 million haul in the U.S. and Canada. That beat expectations and gave it the third-highest opening weekend ever. And the "Twilight" finale is set for release in November.
These two movies could generate about $450 million in profit combined, estimates Cowen & Co. analyst Doug Creutz. The adventures of bow-wielding heroine Katniss Everdeen alone could translate to 6 to 7 years of higher earnings, Creutz says, adding that Lions Gate may post its first profit in five years for the fiscal year that ends March 31.
More than two-thirds of Lions Gate's revenue comes from the movie business, so its first blockbuster means a lot. It had been getting by with staples like Tyler Perry comedies and the "Saw" horror series.
The rest of Lions Gate's revenue comes from television productions such as "Mad Men," which kicked off its fifth season Sunday. The company doesn't reap ad revenue from the hit TV show, but the show's success with audiences keeps Lions Gate in demand as a production company. It also boosts sales of DVDs and licensing revenue from reruns.
Plus there's another show in the hopper: Charlie Sheen's "Anger Management," which debuts in June on FX. If the first 10 episodes go well, the company will automatically be signed up for several years of work.
Lions Gate's stock is up more than 75 percent this year. Not surprising, given the huge buzz leading up to the release of "The Hunger Games." But this weekend's better-than-expected opening led several analysts to raise their profit estimates.
The only two movies ever to bring in more at the box office on their opening weekend were last year's "Harry Potter" finale, which took in $169.2 million, and 2008's "The Dark Knight," which brought $158.4 million its first weekend.
Some analysts said Lions Gate shares should reach or top $16 over the next year. The stock rose 65 cents, or 4.5 percent, to close at $15.18 on Monday.
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