Imax made a big bet on Furious 7 — opening it on a record 365 domestic screens and 445 international ones — and it appears to have paid off. Company shares are up about 5.5% in early trading and touched $36.48, a 52-week high, putting it within spitting distance of its adjusted all-time high of $37.26 on June 2, 2011.
Domestic ticket buyers spent $14 million over the holiday weekend to see the action film in Imax. That number, which accounted for 9.7% of the film’s total box office, set a company record for April and ranked No. 2 all-time behind The Dark Knight Rises for a 2D film on its screens.
That handily beat analysts’ expectations, but some are more impressed by the $8 million it generated abroad. “This is a strong figure given that the film has not yet opened in China,” which accounts for nearly 27% of all Imax screens, Stifel analyst Benjamin Mogil says. Other markets coming up include Russia and Japan.
The weekend sales also helped to support Imax’s argument to Wall Street that it won’t be seriously hurt by competition from exhibition chains’ home-grown large-screen venues. The Imax showings averaged $38,400 per screen, which was 33% higher than the per-screen average of $28,800 for the other so-called Premium Large Format screens.
“Following a solid start to the year during Q1 with the unexpected upside results from the last-minute addition of American Sniper onto Imax screens,” B. Riley & Co’s Eric Wold says, “the impressive film slate and strengthening consumer demand for the Imax format continues to boost confidence in our projected 24% revenue growth and 40% EBITDA [cash flow] growth for 2015 – which should push the shares towards our $43.50 price target as the story gains differentiation from the pure play exhibitors.”
Imax used the film’s showing at the TCL Chinese Theatre Imax in Hollywood to introduce its laser projection system in the U.S. The company says it has made “a significant R&D investment” to upgrade projection and sound. It calls the changes “a quantum leap forward in cinema technology – providing audiences with the sharpest, brightest, clearest and most vivid digital images ever, combined with a whole new level of immersive audio.”