Double Feature at IMAX

Life is good at the local multiplex if you're a premium exhibitor.

Shares of IMAX (Nasdaq: IMAX  ) opened higher this morning, after the Toronto-based company behind gargantuan screens and sense-awakening projection and sound systems delivered a healthy quarter.

Revenue climbed 17% to $51.1 million, and that was with fewer installations of the sales-type leases that the company books as immediate revenue. Many of the screens going up these days are part of joint-venture agreements with exhibitors. These arrangements may not have the same kind of top-line pop initially, but it does allow IMAX to participate more actively in the box office receipts and related concession sales.

Reported earnings grew fivefold to $0.10 a share, but even adjusted earnings more than doubled. 

Clearly there's a healthy appetite for consumers to pay up a few bucks more for premium screenings, and this bodes well for IMAX, as well as sound specialist Dolby (NYSE: DLB  ) and 3-D licensing leader RealD (NYSE: RLD  ) .

IMAX is worldwide hit, and many of the 100 new theater signings that were inked during the quarter are overseas. IMAX claims that international ticket sales per screen are trending 25% higher than domestic screens, and that's excluding the global impact of Avatar.

There is now a backlog of 257 screens for IMAX to install over the next few years, well ahead of the 163 screens that were in the pipeline a year ago.

This is where things get interesting. When you combine a fast-growing network of theaters, studios bending over backwards to make sure that their blockbusters get the IMAX treatment, and the huge revenue-sharing upside of the joint-venture deals, IMAX is staring at a pretty beefy future as long as theater patrons don't tire of the premium experiences.

IMAX isn't settling for what it's currently offering. IMAX recently joined nanotechnology incubator Harris & Harris (Nasdaq: TINY  ) and several other investors in funding an upstart that is working on a lighting system that is far brighter than the Xenon bulbs currently used in 3-D projections.

IMAX also is a partner with Sony (NYSE: SNE  ) and Discovery (Nasdaq: DISCK  ) (Nasdaq: DISCA  ) to launch the country's first 24/7 3-D cable channel in a few months.

The payoff for these ventures is far away, but investors should be fine with waiting it out as the global presence of IMAX screenings grows with every passing quarter.

There's life after Avatar for IMAX, and it's apparently even greener.

IMAXhas been around for decades, but some folks still think it's just a fad. What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

IMAX is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick. Discovery Communications and Dolby Laboratories are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a movie buff, but 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


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  • Report this Comment On October 29, 2010, at 1:23 AM, TMFVelvetHammer wrote:

    I remember IMAX as a kid- at an aquarium, or at a museum. Can't recall which. But I can still FEEL the sound, and it's been many years ago. Then they started showing up in Multiplexes, running feature films, not documentaries.

    I decided to apply the simple investing rules that Foolish investors use. 1- Great product. 2- Solid management. 3- Easy-to-understand business. 4 Sustainable growth and profit opportunity.

    Talking about passing the test- I am up over 30% this year in IMAX, and the future is very, very bright!

  • Report this Comment On October 29, 2010, at 5:17 PM, brs975 wrote:

    "...behind gargantuan screens and sense-awakening projection and sound systems delivered a healthy quarter." Seriously? After we cut through the fluff to find the story, please help me understand the infatuation with a small footprint, vertical screen that cuts off the left/ right and technology that isn't as good as their competitors and doesn't scale as thier competitors...outside of nice speakers, what is so special about IMAX?

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