Imax posts $9 million for 'Eclipse' opening

6:25 AM PST 07/06/2010 by Paul Bond, AP

But company shares drop 12% on Tuesday

Imax reported respectable opening-weekend results for "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse," but the stock dropped 12% on Tuesday.

"Eclipse" showed on 193 Imax screens domestically from Wednesday through Monday and earned $9 million, about $47,000 per screen.

The per-screen average roughly matched that of "Toy Story 3" but was 13% below that of "Avatar" and "Iron Man 2."

Investors dumped the stock, sending it down $1.70 to $12.25, with more than twice the average number of shares trading hands. The fall capped a 10-week losing streak on the once-hot stock that, as of Tuesday, is trading at a loss for the year.

After advancing nearly 200% in 2009, then another 53% in the first four months of this year, Imax has hit the skids, shedding 40% in 10 weeks.

The plunge is vindication for Merriman Curhan Ford analyst Eric Wold, the only analyst covering the stock who has been bearish all year. While those following his advice missed the stock's run-up earlier this year, they also avoided the recent plunge.

All year long. the analyst has been predicting the stock would sink beneath $12.50 again for a couple of reasons: a weaker slate in the second half of the year and into next year; and competition from exhibitors that are building their own giant screens.

Wold has been writing that the only two movies he likes that have been announced on Imax next year are the next installments of a couple of Disney franchises: "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "Cars."

He also doesn't like that Imax is so dependent on Warner Bros., writing that the studio could account for up to 64% of Imax releases annually over the next three years.

"Giving studios a more dominant position could not only impact the quality of movies reaching Imax screens, but also deal economics," he said.

Naturally, there are competing opinions. Roth Capital and Zacks Investment Research have been telling clients that the swoon in Imax shares is a buying opportunity.
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