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IMAX Stock Has a Lot to Prove on Wednesday

By Rick Munarriz - Jul 25, 2017 at 3:24PM

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Too many Wall Street pros are growing near-term cautious ahead of this week's second-quarter report.

There hasn't been a Hollywood ending for IMAX (IMAX -0.60%) investors. The provider of enhanced theatrical experiences hit a four-year low last week, and the pessimism comes just as IMAX is about to report fresh financials.

IMAX reports second-quarter results after Wednesday's market close, and Wall Street isn't holding out for growth. Analysts see revenue slipping 3% to $89.3 million. Top-line slides aren't new. IMAX is at the mercy of studios putting out blockbusters on its super-sized platform to drive ticket sales, and revenue has slipped in three of the past four quarters. The market's holding out for a profit of $0.14 a share, less than the $0.18 a share it rang up a year earlier. It would be IMAX's fifth straight quarter of shrinking net income.

A Warcraft movie ad for IMAX 3D.

Image source: IMAX. 

Let's all go the lobby

IMAX isn't at its best these days. It announced last month that it would be laying off 100 full-time positions or roughly 14% of its workforce. It's hard to view job eliminations as an encouraging sign.

It's also not a good sign heading into earnings when analysts are talking down your prospects. A few Wall Street pros have put out cautious notes this month. The deluge began with Eric Wold at B. Riley removing the stock from his form's Focus List, concerned about the short-term volatility at the box office.

Eric Handler at MKM Partners would go on to slash his price target from $40 to $30, also concerned about sluggish box office trends. He would go on to lower his estimates for IMAX's global box office for all of 2017 as well as his revenue and EBITDA targets for the recently concluded second quarter.

The silver lining in the Wold and Handler updates is that they at least maintained their bullish long-term ratings on the stock, but that wasn't the case a week later when James Goss at Barrington downgraded the stock from Outperform to Market Perform a week later. His concern is that positive catalysts may take some time to pay off.

The final note of concern came late last week when Stan Meyers at Piper Jaffray argued that a lot is riding on this week's report with some stateside theaters testing seat upgrade initiatives that don't include IMAX, as well as growing pains in China. 

Meyers remains bullish, but when three analysts with positive ratings chime in with near-term concerns during the same month, with earnings looming later in the month, it has to be problematic. The buyback also isn't going to give the market a boost in confidence.

IMAX is pushing into virtual reality recently opening its first IMAX VR Centre in a multiplex. It's also buying back shares, though that's been a bad bet for the company in the past. Bulls can argue that expectations are already weak, offering serious upside if we see a positive surprise. The other side of that coin is that it's not coincidental that IMAX is trading near last week's four-year low and that even long-term bullish analysts are going on the record as concerned for its near-term performance.

Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends IMAX. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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