There's plenty of buzz surrounding Spider-Man's return to the big screen, and the expectations are high for creator Marvel (NYSE:MVL) and producer Sony (NYSE:SNE). But another company has aspirations to showcase the web-slinger's prowess on the big screen -- the really big screen: IMAX (NASDAQ:IMAX).

If you've never seen a movie in an IMAX theatre, I highly recommend it. Imax technology offers a unique cinematic experience: 12,000 watts of amazing surround sound and digital images projected onto giant screens that are measured in stories rather than feet. I was so immersed in my first IMAX 3-D film in Mandalay Resort's (NYSE:MBG) Luxor Casino that I immediately scraped together a few dollars (I was in college at the time) and bought whatever shares I could afford. Unfortunately, those dollars soon turned into pennies. Lesson learned: Great products and services do not necessarily translate into great investments.

IMAX has announced numerous innovations since, including IMAX MPX systems, which allow traditional 35mm theaters the opportunity to convert multiplex auditoriums into IMAX theatres. The release of digitally re-mastered Hollywood blockbusters such as General Electric (NYSE:GE) Universal's Apollo 13 and Time Warner's (NYSE:TWX) Matrix Revolutions and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in IMAX format is also a major development. In November, IMAX and Time Warner will collaborate on The Polar Express, the first Hollywood feature film ever to be released in IMAX 3-D format.

Still, IMAX hovers narrowly above penny-stock range at $5.50, and first-quarter earnings released last month didn't help. Earnings swung from a $0.07 cent profit to a $0.01 loss, on a 26% drop in revenues to $24.9 million. Theater operations rose 16%, but were offset by a 28% decline in systems revenues and a 34% drop in film revenues.

Though IMAX has missed earnings estimates the past two quarters, its reaffirmed full-year 2004 guidance of $0.25-$0.35 cents seems attainable. At the midrange, that would equate to a forward earnings multiple of around 18, not exactly cheap for a company as unpredictable as IMAX has been, but reasonable enough for 11 officers and directors to purchase more than 250,000 shares last month. Throw in the possibility of a deal with Sony for Spider-Man 2 into what is already the company's most ambitious release schedule ever, and maybe there's more to the IMAX story than just a great viewing experience.

Fool contributor Nathan Slaughter recommends IMAX's L:5 First City in Space to anyone, but owns none of the companies mentioned.