Patent-rich but cash-poor is no way to go through life, so Eastman Kodak (NYSE: EK) is licensing some of its cinematic patents to multiplex super-sizer IMAX (NYSE: IMAX).

Kodak is granting IMAX exclusive rights in the digital cinema field to dozens of patents covering fundamental laser projection technology. The move will allow IMAX to beef up the quality of its larger and domed systems. Terms of the deal aren't being disclosed, but it will naturally be royalty bearing to Kodak.

IMAX could have waited, Kodak bears will argue. Shares of the photo pioneer have been crushed this year, as Kodak scrambles to sell off valuable patents to avoid filing for bankruptcy. IMAX could have probably purchased the patents, without the licensing royalties, on the cheap in a Kodak reorganization or liquidation.

Why chance it, though? Individual exhibitors have been rolling out their own super-sized screens. Sensing a shift in moviegoer preferences during what has been a difficult year for box office receipts, what's to stop a RealD (NYSE: RLD) or a Dolby (NYSE: DLB) from going after the patents themselves?

IMAX could have also faced the possibility that an acquired or reorganized Kodak wouldn't be interested in licensing the laser projection technology at all.

In other words, IMAX is doing the right thing by taking advantage of a deal-hungry and cash-strapped Kodak instead of holding out for a better deal in more tumultuous times.

IMAX is starting to bounce back. The debut of Real Steel two weekends ago generated $4.4 million in global IMAX ticket sales, a company record for an October opening. The family-friendly robot action movie led the box office once again this past weekend.

Analysts see IMAX's profitability halved to $0.49 a share this year before more than doubling to $1.14 a share next year. Armed with a little patent muscle after today's Kodak deal, things should only get better from here.    

If you want to see how premium cinema holds up beyond today's matinee, consider adding RealD and IMAX to My Watchlist.

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