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Analyst raises domestic box office estimate

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The blockbuster year for theaters in the U.S. and Canada will continue through the final quarter, Nomura said Tuesday, but there is unlikely to be a sequel in 2013.

Nomura analyst Robert Fishman he now expects fourth-quarter domestic box office revenue to rise by 16 percent from a year ago, revising his previous estimate for an 8 percent gain. Upside could come from the first installment of the three-part movie series based on "The Hobbit," he said. Fishman sees revenue for the entire year rising 6 percent from a year ago to $10.8 billion, followed by a 3 percent decline in 2013.

"However, given the tougher comparisons in 4Q12 as well as 1Q12, we still remain somewhat cautious for 2013 and expect it to be down 3 percent," Fishman wrote.

According to Hollywood.com, the peak year for movie theater revenues was 2009, when revenue hit $10.6 billion. Most of the gains from recent years have come from higher prices. Movie theaters charge extra for 3-D and Imax screenings. The peak year for ticket sales was in 2002, when 1.6 billion tickets were sold. Hollywood.com predicts movie ticket sales to rise 5.6 percent this year to 1.4 billion tickets.

Fishman raised his fourth-quarter profit estimate for Regal Entertainment Group to 25 cents per share, up from a previous estimate of 20 cents per share. Analysts polled by FactSet expect, on average, earnings of 18 cents per share. He maintained his "Neutral" rating on the shares with a $15.50 price target.

Regal shares rose 10 cents at $14.30 in midday trading Tuesday. Cinemark Holdings Inc. shares were flat at $26.49 while Carmike Cinemas Inc. shares rose 6 cents at $13.87.