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Sector Snap: Movie theater companies downgraded

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- An analyst downgraded his rating on several movie theater chains Monday because he expects lower box office revenues this quarter, despite higher ticket prices.

For the year through Sunday, theaters in the U.S. and Canada have taken in $1.55 billion, about 8 percent less than a year ago, according to Hollywood.com. Attendance is down 9 percent at 192.7 million, while average ticket prices crept up to $8.05 from $7.96 a year ago.

Theater chains face "increasingly difficult comparisons" for the remainder of the quarter through March, said B. Riley Caris analyst Eric Wold. He expects box office grosses will be down 15 percent versus a year ago in the quarter through March.

Last year, "The Hunger Games" pulled down $153 million in its opening weekend. In contrast, the biggest of films of this March include Disney's "Oz the Great and Powerful," DreamWorks Animation's "The Croods," and "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" from Paramount.

"Jack the Giant Slayer" from Warner Bros. underwhelmed expectations this past weekend with a $28 million opening.

Wold downgraded Cinemark Holdings Inc., Regal Entertainment Group and Carmike Cinemas Inc. to "Neutral" from "Buy," and trimmed price targets on all three.

Regal shares fell 9 cents to $15.29 in afternoon trading Monday. Cinemark shares shed 16 cents to $27.25 and Carmike shares fell 81 cents to $15.26.