Expectations were low going into IMAX's (NYSE:IMAX) third-quarter financial report. The company delivered a blockbuster second-quarter earnings report, but investor pessimism about the fate of the movie industry has weighed on the consumer discretionary stock, leading to concerns that lower third-quarter ticket sales would derail the company's record run.
IMAX once again proved the detractors wrong, remaining on track to deliver the best box-office year in its storied history. Here are five factors that drove the stock higher -- even on a down market day.
1. Solid revenue growth
IMAX reported revenue of $86.4 million, up 5.2% year over year, just missing analysts' consensus estimates of $86.88 million. This was driven by an increase of 19.1% in global box office.
That might not sound like much to write home about, but consider this: The overall industry box office in the U.S. is down about 5.7% year over year through the end of September -- meaning IMAX is beating the industry by a wide margin.
2. Expanding bottom line
IMAX was able to parlay its meager revenue gains to an impressive profit performance. Net income of $10.9 million climbed 45% year over year.
After driving down its operating expenses over the past couple of years, IMAX was able to keep its costs essentially flat year over year in the third quarter. Year to date, operating expenses have declined by 6.6% compared to the first nine months of 2018.
3. The company's business in China is booming
IMAX has big screens all over the world but its audience in China has a big appetite for movies and an even bigger appetite for IMAX. Through Oct. 7, the overall box office in Mainland China has grown just 2.9% year over year in 2019, while IMAX's China box office has grown by a whopping 27%.
That demand for IMAX was on full display during China's recent National Day celebrations. IMAX set the stage with three local-language tentpole movies -- My People, My Country; The Captain, and The Climbers -- for audiences to enjoy during the weeklong October holiday. IMAX's box-office take soared on opening day, up 238% year over year, but that was just the beginning. When it was all over, IMAX reported a record-breaking performance, with ticket sales that jumped 164% compared to the prior-year holiday.
4. Its network is growing
With so many ways to spend their time, consumers need an incentive to get out and go to the movies. IMAX provides that with a growing network of big-screen theaters around the world. That number increased in Q3 by 127 theaters compared to the prior-year quarter -- an increase of 9% year over year. The IMAX network now spans 1,568 systems, with 1,473 systems in commercial multiplexes in 81 countries. With two-thirds of its global box office outside the U.S., IMAX boasts strong geographic diversification.
That's not all. IMAX signed contracts to add another 22 new theaters and eight upgrades to its growing backlog. The company now has 607 theaters -- including 125 upgrades -- on the waiting list for IMAX systems.
5. The best may be yet to come
After last year's record-breaking box office performance, 2019 is having a hard time measuring up. Don't worry, though, as there are several potential hits waiting in the wings.
The fourth quarter started off with a bang with Joker exceeding expectations, becoming the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time. Still to come are Terminator: Dark Fate (which sees the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton), Jumanji: The Next Level, Frozen 2, Ford v Ferrari, and one of the most highly awaited movies of the year: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
Considering IMAX's performance so far this year and with several blockbusters yet to come, CEO Rich Gelfond said the following in the company's earnings press release: "We are on track for a strong fourth quarter to top off our record-breaking year."