Weak film revenue fuels Imax loss

Lost $10.3 mil during first quarter

TORONTO -- As Imax Corp. spent money to transition to digital projection and joint-venture theaters, the company on Monday posted a widened first-quarter loss on weak film revenue.

The giant-screen exhibitor lost $10.3 million during the three months to March 31, against a loss of $4.6 million in 2007, on revenue of $23.5 million, against a year-earlier $26.8 million.

Beyond rising expenses, the increased loss was also due to a decrease in film revenue to $7.4 million from $9.1 million in 2007.

Film production and DMR revenue fell to $2.9 million, against $4.6 million in 2007 when Imax scored with Warner Bros.' "300." During the latest quarter, supersized versions of "The Spiderwick Chronicles" and Martin Scorsese's "Shine a Light" underwhelmed on Imax screens.

Warner Bros.' "Speed Racer" followed suit this past weekend as it attracted a tepid $1.9 million on 84 Imax screens.

Imax also added DreamWorks Animation's "Madagascar 2" to its 2008 film slate, and expects to have 35 digital theaters on stream for that Nov. 7 bow.

Imax has recorded about 170 theater signings during the latest two quarters, which includes a 35-theater lease deal with RACIMEC International Group and 31-theater joint venture deal with Regal Cinemas.

At the same time, Imax co-CEO Rich Gelfond told analysts during a conference call to expect no more 100-theater deals as the company signed with AMC Entertainment.

Imax will more typically build out its footprint in North America with two- and three-theater deals to stir exhibitor interest in its digital rollout.

After twin financing transactions with Wachovia Capital Finance Corporation and the Douglas family unveiled last week, Imax expects to have $55 million-$60 million on hand to fund its pending digital projection rollout, which is set to begin in June.