Pirates Invade IMAX

Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) may not have been swimming in great reviews for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, but the movie didn't disappoint at IMAX (NYSE: IMAX  ) theaters this past weekend. The fourth installment of the Pirates series set a record for IMAX opening weekend box office at $16.5 million worldwide.

No one has any grand notion that Pirates will become the next Avatar for IMAX, but the results do kick off an exciting summer movie schedule for the theater company. Thor has already hit the big screen, and Kung Fu Panda 2 will take over many screens this weekend.

Most impressive from this weekend's performance was the blowout numbers international IMAX theaters have shown. International IMAX screens averaged $60,100 per screen over the weekend compared with $32,000 domestically. IMAX is adding 75 theaters in China at Wanda Cinema Line theaters, and the company's nine existing screens there averaged $75,000 each. If IMAX can keep anywhere near that kind of box office performance in China, the company should be happy.

3-D isn't what it used to be
But not everyone was happy about the weekend at the box office. Domestically, non-IMAX 3-D box office receipts accounted for 46% of screens but only 38% of box office receipts. That can partially be explained by IMAX taking 9.1% of the domestic box office despite being shown on just 256 screens. But 3-D companies such as RealD (NYSE: RLD  ) aren't getting the up-sell they hoped for from 3-D. It could have been a film that didn't lend itself to 3-D or poor reviews of the 3-D effects, but studios are finding out not all movies are meant for 3-D.

Foolish bottom line
3-D was exciting a year ago and RealD has treated investors very well, but we need to keep an eye on this summer's movies to see whether it's lost some of its luster. For IMAX, the ability to show blockbusters in both 3-D and 2-D will save it from some of that shakeout as the 3-D industry matures.

Last weekend was great for IMAX, but this record probably won't stand long with Harry Potter hitting theaters in just a couple of months.

Interested in reading more about IMAX? Click here to add it to My Watchlist to find all of our Foolish analysis on this stock.

Fool contributor Travis Hoium owns shares of IMAX. You can follow Travis on Twitter at @FlushDrawFool, check out his personal stock holdings or follow his CAPS picks at TMFFlushDraw.

Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Walt Disney and IMAX. 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. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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  • Report this Comment On May 24, 2011, at 3:21 PM, David369 wrote:

    I saw the IMAX 3D pirate show. Movie was so-so compared to previous ones. The IMAX 3D I enjoyed more than the movie. Actually, I thought the movie previews in 3D were better than the POC movie (Transformers, Harry P). Wow. Other than the dang 3D glasses being a lousy fit (for anyone in my group) the real problem with the IMAX "experience" for a movie like POC was it looked so REAL in 3D you tended to lose the WOW effect after about 10 minutes. Which is what it is supposed to look like in 3D right? None of the cheap hands reaching from the screen for your nose crap, just good 3D that was so real you forgot it was a unique experience.

    By the way, I don't have the luxury of having compared the same 3D movie in both the RealD and IMAX versions. I think that would be interesting. But my impression is that IMAX was a better 3D film but the RealD glasses at least fit better. IMAX should work on the glasses.

  • Report this Comment On May 28, 2011, at 8:43 PM, shayes46373 wrote:

    I saw Pirates in a IMAX 3d and was not impressed for the money. My concern is IMAX 3d being over saturated by movie companies trying to take advantage of the increase cost to moviegoers. This could hurt IMAX. The cost was $14.50 per person and I didn't see the value added. I have been a big fan of IMAX and even own stock. I'll have to watch the summer season and see how this plays out. I could be getting out of the IMAX business.

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