Imax First-Quarter Earnings Rise, Beat Estimates

Allison Michael Orenstein

The giant-screen exhibitor, led by Richard Gelfond, cites a more robust local-language film strategy, among other profit drivers.

Giant-screen exhibitor Imax posted a big rise in first-quarter earnings Tuesday.

The company reported earnings of $8.5 million attributable to shareholders, compared with earnings of $75,000 last year.

The adjusted earnings per share of 21 cents, compared with 6 cents per share in 2017, blew past an analyst consensus estimate  of 11 cents.

Quarterly revenue came in at $84.9 million, against $68.6 million a year earlier. The analyst forecast was for $81.2 million.

Gross box office from Imax digitally remastered movies jumped 16.4 percent to $246.9 million in the first quarter, as the exhibitor released 22 films during the latest financial quarter, against 18 in the year-earlier period. Imax's digital remastering revenues were $27.1 million, compared with $23.4 million in the first quarter last year.

And revenue from joint venture theaters came to $17.9 million, against a year-earlier $15.2 million. Imax recorded a full-year loss of $13 million from its investment in ABC and Marvel Television's drama series Inhumans, which had its first two episodes shot partially with Imax cameras

During its second quarter, Imax saw Avengers: Infinity War, a commercial Hollywood movie shot with Imax cameras, deliver a record $41.5 million in giant-screen box office during its opening weekend.  

"Our first-quarter results were strong from both a financial and strategic standpoint," said Imax CEO Richard Gelfond. "We modified our programming strategy, demonstrated operating leverage and set the table for the successful launch of Imax with Laser, which was bolstered by over 150 signings to date."

Ahead of its quarterly results release, Imax reported a string of new theater signings, including in India and China. And the giant-screen exhibitor signed deals for its digital laser projection system with Cineworld/Regal and AMC.

During a morning analyst call, Gelfond touted his company's international expansion, including in Saudi Arabia, which recently lifted a 35-year cinema ban. Imax launched its first commercial theater with VOX Cinemas in Riyadh Park, with Avengers: Infinity War the first movie to play on its big screen.

Gelfond said Imax is talking with AMC about opening additional Imax screens in Saudi Arabia.

Imax is expanding in India, and later this year will open the local-language film Thugs of Hindostan, which stars Aamir Khan, on its big screens. Gelfond said local-language Bollywood films also are expected to play well on Imax screens in the U.S. and China markets.

Also on the analyst call, Imax Entertainment CEO Greg Foster, who has been key to steering Imax toward the release of digitally remastered Hollywood tentpoles, confirmed that he will not seek re-election to the company's board of directors. 

Foster, who has been with Imax for 18 years, said he and Gelfond were discussing his next role in the company as he looks to the future. "I love Imax. And I'm sure there will still be a role for me. But after 18 years, it's time to take a step back and look at it." 

May 1, 9:30 a.m.: Updated with comments from top Imax executives made during the morning analyst call.