Imax followed its box office surge during the Presidents Day and Chinese New Year weekend with a fourth-quarter earnings report offering several upbeat signs for investors.
Global box office in the quarter, which ended December 31, rose almost 13% to $278 million, and in the U.S. it increased 16% to $117 million. Over the four-day weekend, from February 16-19, the company set an Imax record for February box office with $53 million, led by the release of Marvel Studios’ Black Panther and three local-language titles released in China.
Diluted earnings per share reached 34 cents in the quarer, up 55% from 22 cents a year earlier.
CEO Rich Gelfond said the results, which capped off a year of experimentation and investment, left him optimistic about the state of Imax as 2018 unfolds. “We’re feeling a lot better about the business than we were a year ago,” he said at the end of a conference call with Wall Street analysts. “There are still things we could be doing better but we’re feeling pretty good.”
Unlike the company’s “cousin,” the traditional exhibition business, Imax has a blended revenue model and isn’t as vulnerable to real estate or moviemaking caprice. And while the exhibition space is rapidly consolidating, with major curcuits AMC and Regal being sold to international owners, Imax has pre-existing relationships to help it weather the changes.
In an interview with Deadline after the earnings call, Gelfond took on another topic that has rattled some exhibitors — premium video on demand. “It’s not going to happen,” he said, noting the pending Fox-Disney and Regal-Cineworld mergers would create entities previously opposed to tweaking windows. “Also, think of the movies that Imax specializes in,” he says. “These are big theatrical experiences, nothing to compare to sitting on your couch.”
Asked during the investor call about another exhibition bogeyman, Moviepass, he shrugged that Imax has not participated with Moviepass thus far. Even so, in the spirit of what he called “non-arrogance” about novel approaches, he said, “Yes, we’ve taken a look at it. … We don’t think it works for the movie industry or for Imax.”