Screens fade to black, but sometimes stock charts fade to red. Shares of multiplex supersizer IMAX ( IMAX 4.46% ) shed 10% of their value last week, held back by a switch at CFO and a negative analyst tweak.
IMAX announced on Monday that Patrick McClymont will take over as CFO when Joseph Sparacio steps down in two months. McClymont has an admirable pedigree, but investors generally don't like to see CFOs being replaced.
However, the biggest blow came two days later, when B. Riley & Co. slashed its price target on the shares, fearing a disappointing second quarter. With just three weeks left in the quarter, B. Riley & Co. feels that a pair of theatrical disappointments will sting IMAX's box office receipts. It's lowering its forecast by 23%. It's sticking to its bullish "buy" rating, but sensing the market isn't going to like the current quarter's report, it's lowering its price target from $45 to $40.
Big screens and shrinking prices
The stock has fallen for six consecutive trading days, so it's not as if the CFO announcement or B. Riley's updated outlook were the lone culprits here. Even Wednesday's press release by IMAX, bragging about shattering opening-day records in China with Warcraft -- the movie based on Activision Blizzard's ( ATVI 0.97% ) blockbuster PC game franchise -- couldn't lift the stock.
Then again, all it took was $5.33 million in sales across 290 IMAX screens in China to break the record. It's also fair to say that Warcraft's appeal in China is unique and may not last long. Chinese gaming leader NetEase ( NTES 3.11% ) has been Activision Blizzard's partner for years. NetEase put out its licensed version of World of Warcraft in China seven years ago, building an audience in the world's most populous nation. NetEase's success in promoting the Activision Blizzard property probably played a big part in the initial push for tickets, but critics have generally panned the flick that opened in U.S. IMAX screens two days later.
IMAX has built its model to withstand the duds. It's grown its installed base to the point where there's no shortage of IMAX remastered films in the pipeline. With more than 1,000 IMAX screens worldwide, a movie studio doesn't put out a potential blockbuster without giving it the IMAX treatment.
Even B. Riley & Co. isn't turning bearish on the stock. It feels that a ho-hum current quarter may weigh on the stock, but it sees healthy catalysts for growth in 2017 and 2018. It also feels that concerns of the recent weakness have already been worked into the stock, hence the move to reiterate its bullish call while simply adjusting the price target lower to reflect market apathy.
Warcraft may prove to be a disappointment for IMAX, but theatrical releases are part of a game that never ends. The long-term outlook remains bullish here, even if there may be some hiccups in the coming weeks.