IMAX Corp. (IMAX) is an entertainment technology company expanding its network of large screens and digital projection systems abroad and getting into laser-based projection. It sees a revenue boost, too, from global expansion plans.
Headquartered in Los Angeles, New York and Toronto, IMAX is riding an increase in demand for premium theater experiences. Hollywood studios seek to sustain profits as the box office sours in the United States. IMAX screens — some are greater than 80 feet — allow exhibitors to charge higher prices, boosting returns.
This is driving orders for IMAX, which expected to have as many as 500 IMAX theaters in 48 countries by the end of 2011, up 30 percent on the year.
A big push is abroad, the source of about 80 percent of the order backlog. International theaters are generating double the box office as theaters back home. IMAX said its international expansion is still in its infancy.
One focus is China, where IMAX plans to increase its screens to 100 in 2012, up from 58 in 2011.
There are challenges. The U.S. box office is expected to worsen this year on a soft economy after falling 3.8 percent to $10.2 billion in 2011, according to the Box Office Mojo reporting service.
To keep bringing in audiences, IMAX plans to sign more deals with studios for IMAX preview screenings and cameras. The cameras make it possible to expand the sequences to fill an entire IMAX screen. The new Tom Cruise action movie "Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol” screened five days earlier than its wide release in 300 IMAX theaters.
“The Amazing Spider-Man,” “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” which is filming segments with IMAX cameras, will pre-release at IMAX this year, too.
Another bet is laser projection technology, a deal with Eastman Kodak Co. (EK) that will allow IMAX to install digital projectors at its biggest screens and at domed screens to show films with more light and more colors.
Third-quarter revenue surged 32 percent to $67.5 million on the year, underpinned by a global expansion of its network and strong results for "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" and “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.” Third-quarter box office receipts rose 53 percent to $149 million on the year. Net income was $8.4 million, up 25 percent compared with the year-earlier level.
The international drive is pleasing analysts. Of 15 analysts on tracked by Thomson/First Call, 11 have buy recommendations, three have holds and one warns of underperformance.
The company is due to next report on Feb. 23.
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