Another Stamp in IMAX's Passport

I don't know if there's an IMAX (Nasdaq: IMAX  ) screen in Harlem, but the company is certainly dribbling like a Globetrotter these days.

The provider of premium cinematic experiences has inked several deals for international expansion in recent days. Yesterday's ink was for as many as five more theaters in Japan, with three of them confirmed to open in the next few months.

The news follows other deals this month for additional theaters in Russia and the Philippines. Tack on the three confirmed Japanese screens, and IMAX has signed deals for 92 screens year-to-date. Exhibitors had only agreed to tack on 35 additional screens at this point a year ago.

The overseas push is comforting, especially when it comes to considering a ceiling for IMAX's potential or calming fears that the company will soon saturate the domestic market.

Shares of IMAX have been rolling since it entered into joint-venture arrangements with AMC, Regal (NYSE: RGC  ) , and a couple of international entertainment providers for jointly bankrolled additions two years ago. However, it's also comforting to see these smaller deals that vindicate IMAX's larger-than-life platform in foreign markets.

IMAX isn't immune to competition. AMC's ETX and Cinemark's (NYSE: CNK  ) XD have opened a handful of locations as premium theatrical auditoriums. This year's rollout of 3-D televisions may very well tempt couch potatoes to simply stay home, though Blu-ray didn't stop last year's record run at the box office. IMAX also has some skin in that game, launching one of the first 3-D channels in cahoots with Sony (NYSE: SNE  ) and Discovery Communications (Nasdaq: DISCK  ) (Nasdaq: DISCA  ) .

The future gets brighter for IMAX with every passing press release, but the stock chart tells a different story. Shares have squandered nearly 40% of their value since peaking three months ago. It's a puzzling slide beyond the general market weakness, because the company's fundamentals continue to improve.

Three months ago, analysts figured that IMAX would earn $0.74 a share this year and $0.85 a share come 2011. Now those same pros see IMAX posting net income of $1.00 a share in 2010 and $1.08 a share next year.

Picking up a Hollywood rising star at 13 times this year's projected profitability -- and just shy of 12 times next year's target -- is a steal in any language.

It's fitting that IMAX's latest deal is to grow in Japan, because clearly there's something lost in translation.

What do you see as the challenges and opportunities for IMAX? Share your perspective in the comment box below.

IMAX is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers selection. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz doesn't like the way he'd look blown up on an IMAX screen. He doesn't own shares in any of the stocks in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy, and it looks smoking hot on one of those eight-story IMAX screens.


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