If Viacom (VIAB - Get Report) had considered selling its Paramount studio, it's less likely to be doing so now. The studio, which last year ranked sixth in market share among Hollywood's major studios, started 2016 with a rush of hits.
Led by 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, director Michael Bay's bullet-spraying action film, three Paramount films finished among the week's top eight films over the Martin Luther King Birthday weekend, according to the box office tracking firm Rentrak.
The Will Ferrell comedy Daddy's Home, released on Dec. 25, has sold nearly $132 million worth of tickets through the three-day weekend. The Big Short, which dramatized the mortgage meltdown 2007 and 2008, generated nearly $52 million. Its box office prospects should stay strong after it was nominated for five Academy Awards, including for best picture.
"Paramount is off to a great start and has some big titles lined up for the summer as well," said Paul Dergarabian, Rentrak's senior media analyst.
This summer will see release of Star Trek Beyond, the thirteenth film in the venerable space franchise that sold a total of $1.2 billion domestically over its lifetime, according to box office tracking firm Box Office Mojo. The last installment, Star Trek into Darkness grossed $257 million in the domestic market and $467 million worldwide.
Bay will also direct Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, upping the action sequences in another of Paramount's franchise properties. The studio's schedule includes a remake of the iconic Ben Hur film, a sequel to the Ben Stiller comedy Zoolander and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, a comedy starring Tina Fey and produced by Lorne Michaels.
Last year Paramount distributed 11 films, about half the output of a major studio. The studio's operating income has fallen for three consecutive years and last year fell by 46% to $111 million.
Viacom's stock declined by 69% in the last year, to $39.85 a share. The company also suffered income declines at its cable network business, which provides 78 percent of its revenue.
In December, Mario Gabelli, the CEO of Gamco (GAB - Get Report) and Viacom's second-largest owner with a 11.4 percent stake, told the Financial Times that Viacom should sell a stake in Paramount to Chinese e-commerce giant company Alibaba (BABA - Get Report) to generate new funds and help it distribute its films in China.
A Viacom spokesman had no comment.
As part of its rebuilding plan, Paramount increased the numbers of films it intends to produce to 15, and last year laid off about three dozen staffers as part of a company-wide restructuring. Paramount also extended its deals with directors Martin Scorcese, Bay and J.J. Abrams, who directed the Star Trek films for the studio.
"We think Paramount will turn around," Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman said during the company's Nov. 12 earnings call. "We do have a large number of franchises. We do have long-term relationships with some of the top talent around. We believe Paramount will come back and come back strongly."