When Big Entertainment (BIGE) was highlighted in this column on Dec. 15, 1997, it was a small outfit: bold plans, no earnings. Shares traded at 6. Today, it's a Net player, and the stock is at 12, having hit 21 on Nov. 30. It has drawn as investors Times Mirror, with a 20% stake, and Gannett, with 7%.
Big Entertainment runs a Web site, bige.com, which sells movie gear such as Star Wars memorabilia. Big E plans to meld the site with hollywood.com, which it agreed to acquire from Times Mirror for $31 million. Hollywood.com provides schedules and reviews. Ultimately, Big E will spin off its Net operations and take it public.
"The combination will make it the leading destination for movie information and collectibles, with 50 million visitors a month," says Jan Loeb of Wasserstein Perella. Because of a five-year pact with the National Association of Theater Owners, Hollywood.com is the exclusive online movie site advertised in more than 75% of the nation's theaters.
Bige.com, which operates an online auction focused on pop-culture products, is also available at other popular sites, including broadcast.com,
excite.com, Time Warner's Road Runner, and usatoday.com. Loeb figures that bige.com and hollywood.com combined could be worth 27 a share. He estimates that Big E's Internet business is worth $300 million, based on 10 times his gross profit estimate of $21.5 million. And its Net content business, he adds, is worth a further $100 million.
One added fillip: Big E has agreed to acquire the assets of CinemaSource, the largest provider of movie listings to the Internet. Net portals that obtain listings from CinemaSource include Yahoo!, MSN, and Excite.