Should IMAX Shareholders Worry About This New Competitor?

3-D ticket sales aren't quite the cash cow they used to be. Walt Disney 's (NYSE: DIS  ) megahit Iron Man 3 seems like a perfect fit for the high-octane 3-D experience, but only 45% of the title's ticket sales came from such screens -- a performance that Variety calls "pathetic." Viacom 's (NASDAQ: VIA  ) zombie romp World War Z might be an even better fit, starring Brad Pitt and a plethora of spectacular special effects. But that shoo-in 3-D hit garnered only 34% of its sales in the depth-enabled format last weekend.

So, what's a 3-D expert to do? Explore new markets, of course!

That's what 3-D projection specialist RealD (NYSE: RLD  ) is doing with "LUXE: A RealD Experience." The big-screen concept is a direct competitor to the established IMAX (NYSE: IMAX  ) brand, but RealD sees an opportunity to consolidate "an alphabet soup of brands and differing amenities" in the space.

Not so fast.

While it's true that nearly every major theater chain nurses its own brand of premium screens, Fool contributor Anders Bylund sees little room for another player in the market. That's especially true because a real premium experience requires cooperation between studios and technology platforms. The next time Disney or Viacom are looking to convert a big-budget action title to the extra-large screen, do you think they'd choose the proven IMAX brand, or the upstart RealD solution?

In the video below, Anders explains in greater detail why IMAX shareholders shouldn't lose sleep over the new RealD challenge. If a dozen brands are confusing customers, adding another name only creates a baker's dozen. And if there's a race to consolidate the premium cinema market, IMAX would be the dog to beat.

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  • Report this Comment On June 28, 2013, at 10:43 AM, austinfeigin wrote:

    I remember being wowed at Beowolf (the first commercial Imax 3D). The stock was at about $3 and change. I thought of buying and didn't (based on their financials at the time). Been kickin' myself ever since. I was amazed and felt--this is the only way to see an action / special effects movie.

    Present day--I went to see Ironman 3 and, by choice, I elected to NOT see it in Imax, or any other 3D. It's lost its novelty and the glasses are a hassle. If you never seen one--go. The most incredible thing is how the printed graphics for the credits look.

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