Iron Man 3 is an undeniable smash hit. The Marvel superhero romp collected $409 million in domestic ticket sales, and the global box office added up to $1.2 billion. Tony Stark helped Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) shares soar 55% higher in 2013, proving that the House of Mouse can get by just fine without a fresh Avengers title every year.
The title also set records for larger-than-life projectionist IMAX (NYSE:IMAX) around the world, including an impressive $1.5 million opening day in China. If that figure sounds small, you should know that Iron Man 3 totally crushed previous record holder Titanic by 52%.
But that young record fell this week. That's right -- not even Iron Man's robotic power could hold back the magical armies of the Middle Kingdom this time. Chinese kung fu production The Monkey King just laughed at Iron Man's $1.5 million first-day sales, on its way to a $1.8 million opening day in IMAX theaters.
This is important, because China is already IMAX's second-largest geographic market behind only the U.S. home turf. That healthy platform was built largely on imported Hollywood fare, but now IMAX has found that Chinese audiences also hunger for immersive presentations of a more local flavor.
So IMAX is finding new ways to grow in the crucial Chinese market. Furthermore, the company should be able to apply the lessons learned here in other important markets, accelerating revenue growth in places like Latin America and major European markets.
Don't be surprised to see a flurry of IMAX announcements in the next couple of years, where the company gives its special big-screen production treatment to locally produced fare. Sure, the next Marvel title will continue to score big for IMAX, but it's an increasingly global entertainment market out there. Exporting Hollywood movies to the far reaches of the planet may not be the name of the IMAX game much longer, and that's a good thing.