Whatever Jedi mind trick IMAX (NYSE:IMAX) CEO Richard Gelfond played on J.J. Abrams, it worked. Star Wars: Episode VII is being at least partially shot in the IMAX format.
Bad robot, good for investors
Earlier this week, Abrams gushed about the technology on the Twitter feed for his production company, Bad Robot:
"Best format ever?" Talk about an endorsement. At the very least, it suggests that Abrams is taking full advantage of IMAX's generous aspect ratio to bring epic landscapes to life on screen -- exactly what I want to see as a Star Wars fan.
Sharing is caring, and profiting
The tweet also comes as Transformers: Age of Extinction has orchestrated 2014's biggest opening weekend, including more than $10 million in IMAX sales. The movie, which was shot in IMAX 3-D, has earned more than $624 million worldwide as of this writing.
IMAX needs these kind of wins. Joint revenue-sharing arrangements -- whereby theaters get access to equipment in exchange for a cut of the box-office take -- comprised 22.5% of revenue and 27.6% of gross profit in the latest quarter.
We can expect even bigger contributions in future years. "The company continues to seek to expand its network of theaters under joint revenue-sharing arrangements, particularly in select international markets," IMAX said in its latest 10-K annual filing.
China is a good example. As of December, 85 of IMAX's 150 local theaters were subject to joint revenue-sharing agreements. Investors like the model well enough that, in April, IMAX sold a 20% stake in its China subsidiary to CMC Capital Partners and FountainVest Partners for $80 million in proceeds.
My guess is that we'll see their bet pay off. By the end of 2013, IMAX had 263 joint-revenue-sharing systems accounting for $51.9 million in sales backlog, up 91.9% and 64.2%, respectively, over 2012's totals. Factor in a rising tide of blockbuster fare -- much of it, like Star Wars: Episode VII, shot with IMAX cameras -- and I think we're at the beginning stages of a long rally for IMAX stock.