This IMAX (Nasdaq: IMAX) thing must be a fad, right? After all, RealD (NYSE: RLD) is in thousands of theaters, and competitors are always rumored to be getting into the big-screen business. As fellow fool Matthew Brown pointed out, IMAX screens have gotten smaller to fit in "regular" movie theaters, therefore diluting the experience of the gigantic screen. So when I started looking at IMAX after seeing Avatar, I figured market share would start dropping once the shine wore off.

The proxy I've been using is IMAX's share of opening weekend results. IMAX screens generally account for 2%-3% of screens on opening weekend and results for both IMAX screens and the general domestic box office are readily available from IMAX. Below I've shown IMAX screen's share of opening weekend box office for the last eight feature films, you might be surprised at how well IMAX is holding up.


Opening Weekend Domestic Box Office

IMAX Opening Weekend

Percent of Total Opening Weekend


$73.0 million

$9.5 million


Alice In Wonderland

$116.2 million

$12.1 million


How To Train Your Dragon

$43.7 million

$4.9 million


Shrek Forever After

$70.8 million

$4.8 million


Toy Story 3

$109 million

$8.4 million


The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

$83.6 million

$9.0 million



$62.8 million

$7.2 million


Resident Evil: Afterlife

$26.6 million

$2.6 million


Sources: IMAX press releases,

What I see here is weakness in the kid-movie genre, which is understandable for a family going to the movies, and consistency in other feature films. With studios throwing their weight behind IMAX, the quality features should keep coming. Disney (NYSE: DIS) is making IMAX films under Walt Disney Pictures, Marvel Studios, and Pixar; Dreamworks Animation (Nasdaq: DWA) is making all of its movies in IMAX; and Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX) Warner Brothers signed a deal for up to 20 movies with IMAX through 2013.

But it isn't just studios that drive IMAX; theaters have to see the value and build IMAX theaters. Considering 85% of the theater signings in 2010 have come from existing customers, I would say theater companies have bought in.

For IMAX to continue performing well it needs to stay in the range of 9% to 11% share of opening weekend box office. If it can stay in that range and continue to expand internationally, I see big things for IMAX.

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