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.