Last Jedi debut may awaken force in Event

Simone Ziaziaris
(Australian Associated Press)

Star Wars: Last Jedi’s premiere could awaken the force in Event Hospitality and Entertainment and drive full-year earnings to near record highs, a senior analyst says.

Morningstar’s Brian Han believes Last Jedi’s premiere on Thursday is capable of resurrecting the domestic movie industry, which is down 15 per cent in box office takings in the December half-year to date compared to a year ago.

He expects the film, the second in the latest Star Wars trilogy, to fall just shy of the success of its predecessor Star Wars: The Force Awakens that was released in December 2015.

The Force Awakens was a smash hit in cinemas and registered an all-time opening weekend box office record of $33 million in Australia and grossed $62.7 million in its 15 days of release.

It was also a major driver in Event’s record $88 million Australia cinema earnings in fiscal 2016.

“We see Star Wars: Last Jedi achieving similar success this time around, underpinning our eight per cent forecast growth in Australian cinema EBIT (earnings before interest and tax) to $85 million in fiscal 2018,” the senior equities analyst said in a note on Wednesday.

Event in February reported a 22.6 per cent fall in net profit, to $59.38 million, for the six months to December 31, and blamed the decline on Star Wars stand-alone film Rogue One’s failure to match The Force Awakens’ box office success of a year earlier.

Mr Han said 2018 full-year earnings will fall slightly short of 2016’s, due to a number of popular movies, including Deadpool, Spectre and Captain America: Civil War released that year.

“Fiscal 2018-to date has been relatively disappointing,” he said.

But Last Jedi’s expected success will not be enough to surmount industry issues such as digital streaming and piracy, Mr Han said.

“Critically, one film, no matter how strong the force is with this one, cannot eradicate the structural threats facing the cinema industry.”


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