Shares rise on reports of production hike

Reports that Pixar may increase production helped shoot up its stock 5% Monday, giving the animation studio momentum few other media companies possess.

Prudential Equity Group issued a report upgrading its price target for Pixar stock from $40 to $75 based on a new model for box office grosses and prediction that the company will move to two pics every other year beginning in 2009.

Estimate is not contingent on Pixar renewing its deal with Disney, which has looked increasingly likely due to friendly comments about the Mouse House from Pixar topper Steve Jobs.

Regardless of its new partner, Pixar is expected to sign a distribution deal by the end of this year.

Prudential analysts Kathy Styponias and Aaron Bearce said the only difference would be that a pact with Disney likely means additional output would be of sequels to pics made with Disney like “Finding Nemo” and “Toy Story,” while a distribution deal with another studio means Pixar would have to come up with more original properties, as Disney owns the sequel rights to movies it distribbed.

Analysts based their assumption that Pixar will increase production on its expanding facilities and the fact that it has eight directors on staff, while it has been putting out one movie per year with four to six helmers. In addition, though Jobs has emphasized Pixar needs to more firmly establish a one-film-per-year sked, he hasn’t given a firm answer when asked if his company will increase production.

Rise in Pixar shares comes as most media congloms have been stagnant and analysts see little long-term upside. Pixar’s major competitor, DreamWorks Animation, saw its shares fall more than 20% earlier this month due to disappointing homevid sales of “Shrek 2.”

Investor enthusiasm for Pixar seemed to affect DreamWorks Monday as well, though, sending its stock up 4%.

Pixar shares closed at $52.99 Monday. Animation studio’s stock is up 24% for the year.

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