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Hit or Flop? What to Expect When IMAX Reports Earnings

By Danny Vena – Oct 20, 2018 at 8:45AM

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It's been a good year so far at the box office, but IMAX stock continues to lag.

There was a lot of uncertainty in the movie business after a difficult 2017 summer season and fears about changing consumer habits. Premium format theater company IMAX (IMAX 1.97%) felt the pain along with the rest of the industry.

The tide appears to be turning so far in 2018, with the box-office take for the first six months of this year up 10% year over year compared with the first half of 2017. Blockbusters like Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War, as well as popular sequels like Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Incredibles 2, and Mission: Impossible -- Fallout, have driven moviegoers back into theaters that many bypassed last year. 

IMAX is scheduled to report the financial results of its third quarter before the market open on Thursday, Oct. 25. Let's take a look at the company's most recent results and see if it provides any insight into what the future holds.

The top corner of a building with the IMAX logo against a bright blue sky with clouds.

Image source: IMAX.

A blockbuster quarter

For the second quarter, IMAX reported revenue of $98.35 million, an increase of 12% year over year, while net income of $14.6 million produced earnings per share of $0.12, a far cry from the $0.03 loss from the prior-year quarter. Results were strong across the company's geographic markets, with each of IMAX's three markets segments -- domestic, Greater China, and other international -- topping $100 million in box office. The theater segment, which includes system sales, declined 6% year over year, but system installations are historically lumpy.

IMAX continues to expand its network of theaters, as evidenced by the growing backlog. IMAX signed up 138 new theaters to the wait list, up from 95 in the prior-year quarter, bringing the current backlog to 635, up from just 580 this time last year. The network of cinemas bearing the IMAX logo grew to 1,410 theaters.

One of the highlights was the progress IMAX made toward its cost-reduction goals, which helped turn a profit in the second quarter compared with a loss the year before. This is part of the company's three-pronged strategy to increase box office, cut expenses, and buy back stock -- all aimed at increasing shareholder value. Look for further updates regarding progress of these key initiatives.

What the future holds

Due to the uncertain nature of box-office results, IMAX doesn't issue quarterly guidance, so we'll look to Wall Street's best guess for context. Analysts' consensus estimates are calling for revenue of $81.32 million, a decline of 17.7% year over year, and earnings per share of $0.12, an increase of 50% compared with the prior-year period.

IMAX's fate is inexorably tied to the slate of films that are released by Hollywood each year, and in times with an abundance of blockbusters -- like now -- exhibitors in general and IMAX in particular tend to do well. According to a report just released by the National Association of Theatre Owners, the summer movie take increased 14% year over year, and 2018 year-to-date box office through mid-October is up 9% compared with 2017 levels.

This likely bodes well for IMAX's financial performance for the third quarter. However, even in light of back-to-back quarters where the company produced impressive metrics, IMAX stock is flat so far this year, so how the stock will react to its results is anyone's guess.

Danny Vena owns shares of IMAX. The Motley Fool recommends IMAX. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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