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IMAX Rides Hollywood to Higher Profits, But Can It Take Over the World?

By Dan Caplinger – Oct 23, 2014 at 1:37PM

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The big-screen theater network saw strong gains in revenue and earnings during the third quarter, but will its growth continue?

Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The entertainment business is a fickle one, where what's trendy one year can go completely out of fashion the next. Yet even as more moviegoers have opted to take advantage of an abundance of home-entertainment options, IMAX (IMAX -2.10%) still offers them an experience that only the most affluent of home-theater aficionados can ever hope to duplicate in a private setting. The latest results from IMAX's third-quarter report show that the company has done a good job of riding on the coattails of popular movie releases during the summer months, but even more importantly, IMAX is working to fill out its worldwide network of theaters to ensure the broadest possible global availability. Let's take a closer look at how IMAX did last quarter.

Gains across the board for IMAX 
The headline numbers from the IMAX third-quarter report gave investors a good sense of how well the quarter went. The company's global box office figures soared 28% to $169 million, reflecting the success of the summer movie season generally. Strong attendance produced revenue of $60.7 million for the quarter, which was up 18% from year-ago levels and just slightly below the $61.1 million that investors had expected from IMAX. On the net income front, adjusted earnings per share came in at $0.11, which was a penny better than most investors were looking to see, as adjusted net income climbed almost 80% to $7.82 million after considering stock-based compensation and certain tax impacts. Cash flows were also strong, with IMAX posting a record figure of $36.6 million for the quarter.

Looking closer at the company, all three of IMAX's segments produced revenue gains. Sales from production and digital remastering climbed to $18.4 million, which was up 27% from year-ago levels as substantial increases in gross box office receipts and per-screen revenue boosted the segment's success. IMAX's joint revenue-sharing arrangements also brought in 27% more money for the company during the quarter, and even the volatile category of revenue from sales and lease arrangements posted a small 3% jump from 2013's third quarter.

IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond praised the company's efforts not just in generating greater sales but also in making the most of the revenue it brought in. As Gelfond said, "We were able to leverage the strong box office across a growing theater network, expand margins, and generate our strongest quarter ever for operating cash flow."

After the previews, what's IMAX's main feature?
IMAX's long-term growth efforts are more important to its success, and the company continued to make progress on that front as well. During the quarter, IMAX installed 14 new theaters under joint revenue-sharing arrangements and six theaters under outright sales and leases, both up by one theater from what it did during last year's third quarter.

Source: IMAX.

Looking forward, IMAX's prospects look even more favorable. The company signed contracts for 42 theater systems worldwide, bringing its total backlog of future theaters to 439. Already, the IMAX network encompasses 880 systems, and as locations in areas around the world have come on board and developed an increasing presence, IMAX continues to build its reputation in delivering an unparalleled entertainment experience to a world of global moviegoers who haven't had the same exposure to movie theaters that Americans take for granted.

One area that slowed to a screeching halt, though, was IMAX's installation of digital upgrades. Yet if the company can demonstrate to theater operators that upgrading their systems provides value, then IMAX could well see upgrade volumes pick up again in the future. With six of IMAX's new contracts this quarter involving system upgrades, the third-quarter lull was likely just an aberration.

Still, IMAX has plenty to look forward to this quarter and beyond. Releases of films like Interstellar and the final installment of The Hobbit should drive fourth-quarter sales, and IMAX is looking forward to long-awaited releases of movies in Disney's (DIS 0.13%) Avengers and Star Wars franchises that promise even better times ahead.

Overall, IMAX remains on its long-term path to growing success, with its expansion efforts panning out well. As long as the company keeps getting good content to bring moviegoers into its theaters, IMAX should be able to keep delivering the goods to its viewers -- and its investors.

Dan Caplinger owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool recommends Imax and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Imax and Walt Disney. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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