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Comcast Corporation (CMCSA), The Walt Disney Company (DIS): Why “Despicable Me” Minions Will Master the Masked Man This Weekend

They’re baaaaack. The minions of Despicable Me, that is, and this time they’re taking on The Lone Ranger. The Masked Man doesn’t stand a chance. Even with Captain Jack Sparrow at his side.

Minions! Sources: YouTube, Universal Pictures.

I’ve mixed feelings about the matchup, both as a film fan and as an investor. Personally, I found 2010’s Despicable Me to be a delight, with the impossibly cute minions softening Steve Carell’s hardened supervillain, Gru. Audiences agreed as the film grossed $543.1 million worldwide on a $69 million production budget. Despicable Me 2, which cost Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCSA)‘s Universal Pictures $76 million, could earn that much or more.

Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCSA)

By contrast, The Lone Ranger stars Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp in a popcorn adventure that I expect to be entertaining. Trouble is, The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS)‘s Buena Vista Pictures spent $215 million to make the film. Anything less than a World War Z-like surge in interest could derail the Masked Man’s prospects.

Such is the danger of investing in big media stocks with film interests. Bad timing and stiff competition can tarnish profits. Big budget films are especially susceptible to the wait-and-see crowd. Moviegoers like me, in other words.

If I wait to rent The Lone Ranger via on-demand, it’ll be because I’m more interested in taking  my kids to see Despicable Me 2. Next weekend I’ll have moved on to Pacific Rim, Time Warner Inc (NYSE:TWX)‘s aliens vs. giant robots epic.

There’s also history to consider. Westerns don’t draw as well as animated features or comedy-spy flicks:

Metrics Animation Comedy-Spy Western
Total U.S. box office $17.92 billion $1.60 billion $2.04 billion
No. of films in franchise 321 30 71
Per-film average $56.34 million $53.41 million $28.72 million
Top film in franchise (domestic box office) Shrek 2($441.23 million) Austin Powers in Goldmember($213.31 million) Dances with Wolves($184.21 million)

Source: Box Office Mojo.

Should that matter to you as a The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) investor? I don’t think so. Iron Man 3 is such a huge hit worldwide that The Lone Ranger could perform as badly as John Carter and the House of Mouse would still report strong studio profits.

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