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Lionsgate Earnings Beat Projections Thanks to TV Profits, ‘La La Land’

Lionsgate’s first quarter earnings easily beat Wall Street projections thanks to profits at its television operation and the home entertainment performance of “La La Land.”

Revenues for the three-month period ending in June topped out at $1.01 billion, up from $553.5 million in the same time frame in 2016. Earnings per share for the quarter were 52 cents. Analysts had been looking for revenues of $996 million and earnings of 33 cents a share. Net income came in at $174 million, a big leap from the $1.3 million Lionsgate reported in the year-ago quarter.

The fiscal snapshot included the company’s sale of its equity interest in cable channel Epix, which resulted in a $201 million gain.

A lot has changed in a year, making comparisons with Lionsgate’s 2016 results difficult. Lionsgate is now a substantially bigger company. Its $4.4 billion pact to buy Starz enhanced its cable and television operations closed in December and dramatically increased the scale of its business operations. Even as its focused on expanding its holdings, Lionsgate has been the subject of acquisition chatter, fueled in part by reports that the company was in talks to sell itself to Hasbro. Those negotiations ended after the two sides couldn’t agree on a sales price.

Lionsgate’s motion picture arm saw revenues climb 15.8% to $472.4 million, while profits nearly quadrupled to $86.9 million. Lionsgate released fewer films during the period. Its major theatrical releases included the Tupac Shakur biopic “All Eyez on Me” and “How to Be a Latin Lover,” a comedy about an aging gigolo. In contrast, Lionsgate released “Now You See Me 2” during the year-ago period, as well as a half dozen smaller releases. The company did get an assist from the home entertainment debuts of the Oscar-winning “La La Land” and “John Wick 2.” It also had lower marketing costs, because it had fewer films to roll out in theaters.

On the television front, profits were up 22% to $12.6 million, but revenues declined 18.6% to $156.6 million due to the timing of episodic deliveries.  Lionsgate released “Dear White People,” a small screen adaptation of the 2014 indie hit, on Netflix, as well as fielded the Hulu anthology series “Dimension 404.” Starz fielded several new series during the quarter, including “American Gods,” a buzzy supernatural drama, and “The White Princess,” a Tudor sudser.

Shares of the company slid in after-hours trading, falling .85% to $28.10.

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