If all the world's a stage, it's good to know that IMAX (Nasdaq: IMAX ) can finally afford to be a player.
IMAX shares climbed 6% on Tuesday, after the company lined up financing to complete its part of a joint venture plan that will introduce IMAX's new digital systems in some leading multiplexes.
Between a wider credit facility through Wachovia (NYSE: WB ) and a private placement with its largest investor, IMAX can bankroll its high-end solutions to provide premium-priced, bigger-than-life movie experiences.
Concept-rich but cash-poor, IMAX has reached several deals in recent months to cover the installation of 170 digital movie projector systems. The biggie came in December, when AMC signed up for 100 of them. In March there was an international deal for 35 screens before Regal Cinemas (NYSE: RGC ) went in for 31 multiplex makeovers.
The digital transformation is important. On the most rudimentary of levels, IMAX runs a scalable model. It doesn't necessarily cost more to remaster a film that will run on 100 screens or 300. The bigger the base, the lower the cost per screen. The company has been able to woo major studios like DreamWorks Animation (NYSE: DWA ) and longtime partner Time Warner (NYSE: TWX ) to go with IMAX releases. Imagine what the studios will do to hop on the bandwagon once IMAX's distribution reach is substantially larger.
The other advantage of going digital is that it provides greater flexibility for the exhibitor and the studio. Live boxing matches, marquee concerts, or even the Super Bowl can become premium-priced events for IMAX exhibitors. Studios also have the flexibility to change prints, providing enhanced versions for later weeks, without having to bankroll the costly film reel productions. Companies like Thomson (NYSE: TMS ) and AccessIT (Nasdaq: AIXD ) are making waves in the digital migration for conventional multiplex screens, but IMAX is in the best spot because it can deliver a gargantuan viewing experience that will drive homebodies out of their living rooms and into the unique, sensory-chomping experience.
IMAX has the product. It now has the money. Only resistance to $6 tubs of popcorn can get in its way.
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