Shares in IM Internationalmedia, Intermedia's corporate parent, rose 19% this week ahead of the US release yesterday of the company's high stakes behemoth, Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines.
Shares in the US-German film operation were at Euros 1.61 at press time late yesterday afternoon, 1.23% down from Tuesday's close of Euros 1.63. Mo Schlattner, Internationalmedia's spokesperson in Munich, put the rise down to a good critical response to the film and sell-out previews on Tuesday night, which grossed between $4m and $5m on some 2,000 screens, according to early estimates yesterday.
Terminator 3, budgeted at around $175m, was greeted enthusiastically in the trade press and mainstream newspapers such as The Chicago Tribune, along with TV station CNN and internet fansite Ain't-It-Cool-News. Footage went down equally well at the Cinema Expo exhibitor conference in Amsterdam last month.
Critics were by no means universally upbeat. Negative reviews included Roger Ebert, Village Voice and Newsday. But the strong level of positive sentiment was in contrast to months of uncertainty over the project. Those doubts now seem largely down to the secrecy of director Jonathan Mostow.
Further boosting expectations, Arnold Schwarzenegger's third outing as a cyborg has scared off any direct competition at the US box-office this weekend. Distributor Warner Bros will be up against MGM's female-skewed Legally Blonde 2: Red, White And Blonde and family film Sinbad: Legend Of The Seven Seas. Opening officially yesterday on over 3,000 screens, Terminator 3 has two full days of play before the weekend. Columbia TriStar opens the film internationally during July and August.
Looking to take on more risk in return for more potential upside, Intermedia is reportedly sacrificing up-front fees in exchange for a larger slice of the back end. Intermedia and Andy Vajna and Mario Kassar's production company C-2 Pictures have also retained merchandising rights.
The last time Intermedia significantly raised its level of risk was a massive backfire. The dismal performance of K:19 - The Widowmaker, which took just $35m in the US, was a significant factor in Intermedia issuing its second profit warning last year, prompting shares to fall 25%. Intermedia's exposure on Terminator 3 is far higher than on K:19.
But a healthy box-office performance for Terminator 3 would allow the company to build on a steadily improving stock market performance which has seen the company post two consecutive positive quarterly results. It would also pave the way for Intermedia's next foray into big-budget fare: Oliver Stone's Alexander, which is scheduled to start shooting next summer with Colin Farrell and Anthony Hopkins.
Martin Blaney in Berlin contributed to this report.