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As Disney and Marvel Studios’ superhero mega-tentpole Avengers: Endgame opens on North American screens, Imax on Friday posted slightly higher first-quarter earnings driven by the box office success of Disney’s Capital Marvel and predicted its biggest box office year ever.
“With a robust lineup of tentpole films ahead, like the highly anticipated Avengers: Endgame, which opens this weekend, we anticipate delivering our strongest box office year ever in 2019,” said Imax CEO Richard Gelfond in a statement that accompanied his latest financial results.
Besides the upcoming Hollywood blockbuster release slate, including Avengers: Endgame, Gelfond told The Hollywood Reporter his optimism for Imax’s 2019 box office prospects were also buoyed by efforts to more closely integrate studio market campaigns for Hollywood movie titles with his company’s own marketing and branding efforts.
And Gelfond pointed to director Jon Favreau using Imax’s expanded aspect ratio for five key movie scenes in Lion King. “It’s going to look better and different in Imax,” he argued.
Imax is also introducing more next-generation laser projects systems in its global theater network this year, while also upgrading the seating in some auditoriums. And Gelfond pointed to an upturn in the Greater China box office for Imax titles, which slumped during 2016 and 2017 and only began to rebound last year.
“There a lot of encouraging signs in 2019, including the launch of Avengers,” Gelfond insisted.
Looking to the end of the year, Imax predicts its global box office will see double-digit percentage growth in 2019, compared to last year. Avengers: Endgame, shot entirely with Imax cameras, bowed Tuesday night in China, two days before its U.S. debut, and broke the large-format exhibitor’s opening-day record with $13.9 million in box office, up 82 percent from the previous record set last year by Avengers: Infinity War.
For Imax’s 2020 film release slate, Patty Jenkins is using the large-format exhibitor’s proprietary cameras to direct her Wonder Woman 1984 sequel, while Imax cameras will also be used to shoot Bond 25, the next installment in the Bond franchise, and Christopher Nolan’s next movie project.
In China, Gelfond also touted the upcoming box office prospects for Mr. Six director Guan Hu’s WWII period action flick 800, which used Imax cameras during its production.
Imax reported net income of $12.5 million for the three months to March 31, up from $12 million in the same period of 2018. Earnings per share came in at 13 cents, while adjusted earnings, which excludes such things as stock-based compensation and restructuring charges, hit 18 cents per share, beating a 17 cents per-share FactSet consensus.
Revenue for the latest quarter was $80.1 million, down from $84.9 million in the year-ago period and below analysts’ estimates. The latest quarterly box office faced a tough comparison with the previous year when Black Panther played on Imax screens.
During the latest quarter, gross box office from Imax digitally-remastered films came to $256.3 million, compared to $246.9 million in the first quarter of 2018. Imax also reported its second strongest box office quarter ever in China, up 19 percent to $106 million.
Imax’s Gelfond during an analyst call attributed the strong China box office for the company to working more closely with Chinese ticketing platforms and expanding its theatrical footprint in the fast-growing market. In addition, the local film The Wandering Earth set a new box office record for Imax theaters in China, raking in $45 million during the first quarter, with ticket sales helped in part by dynamic pricing in that market.
Domestic Imax pre-sales for Avengers: Endgame stand at $21 million, up 70 percent compared to Avengers: Infinity War. “We’re very optimistic to say the least going into this weekend,” Gelfond told analysts.
Imax execs also discussed on the analyst call continuing talks with top streaming services like Netflix and Amazon about releasing their blockbuster movies. “We have excellent relationships with all of the leaders of the streaming services and we have great conversations with them, and announcements are imminent,” said Megan Colligan, president of Imax Entertainment.
April 26, 6:30 a.m. Updated with comments by Imax execs made during an analyst call and to THR.
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