IMAX Rides Higher As Its Strategic Vision Takes Shape

Image: IMAX.

Successful companies don't just produce impressive financial performance. They also identify key strategic goals and strive to achieve them. IMAX has sought to reach the pinnacle of the big-screen entertainment industry, with competitive advantages that traditional movie-theater operators like AMC Entertainment simply can't match. Coming into Wednesday's third-quarter financial report, IMAX investors already had high hopes for the company's recent results, and the theater company ended doing even better than most had expected to see. Let's take a closer look at IMAX and what it did right during the past three months.

IMAX delivers blockbuster sales numbersAs lofty as investors' expectations for IMAX's third-quarter growth were, the actual results more than lived up to the company's potential. Revenue skyrocketed 40% to $85.1 million, easily topping the 29% growth rate that most investors were looking to see. After accounting for stock-based compensation and other extraordinary items, adjusted net income rose 53% to $12 million, and that produced adjusted earnings of $0.17 per share, matching the consensus forecast.

You don't have to look far to figure out where the biggest gains for IMAX came. Revenue from sales and sales-type leases quadrupled for year-ago levels, with the company doubling the number of installations of full theater systems during the third quarter of 2015 compared to the same period in 2014. All in all, IMAX installed a dozen new systems and also upgraded eight existing locations during the most recent quarter, after having done no upgrades at all in 2014's third quarter.

Still, IMAX's other businesses also contributed to overall solid performance. Revenue from joint revenue-sharing arrangements climbed 30% to $19.8 million, with the company installing 22 new theaters under revenue-sharing arrangements, up from 14 in last year's quarter. The quarter's expansion brought the total number of joint-venture theaters to just shy of 500. Production and digital remastering revenues rose 14% to $20.9 million in the quarter, reflecting solid double-digit percentage gains in gross box office. However, in accounting for the greater number of screens available, average box office per screen figures actually fell slightly from year-ago levels, coming in at $220,500.

IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond celebrated the positive results, noting how important it is to the company that it continue to install IMAX theater systems at a strong pace throughout its global market. Yet Gelfond also pointed to how IMAX has attained some important milestones that he thinks will lay the foundation for even further growth in the future.

How far IMAX has comeIn particular, Gelfond pointed to "several important strategic and financial objectives" that IMAX has accomplished. The total IMAX theater network topped the 1,000-system mark during the quarter, with 1,008 total systems out of which 887 are located in commercial multiplexes, and the company boosted its guidance on new theater installations for the full year to 130 systems. In addition, IMAX was able to do a successful initial public offering of shares of its IMAX China subsidiary on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange during the quarter, with the IPO raising proceeds of $162 million that will show up on IMAX's consolidated balance sheet. Finally, IMAX bought back 1 million shares of its stock at an average price of about $34.25 per share, taking advantage of the recent swoon in the share price.

Most importantly, IMAX is confident that blockbuster releases coming soon will help drive growth throughout the rest of 2015 and beyond. In Gelfond's words, "We look forward to the upcoming releases of the latest Bond installment Spectre, the final Hunger Games chapter, and of course the much-anticipated Star Wars." Of course, AMC Entertainment and other traditional movie theater operators will also benefit from blockbuster films. Yet IMAX correctly sees its larger theater format as a way to distinguish itself and offer a better viewing experience, and as long as Hollywood keeps coming out with solid feature films that benefit from optimal theater conditions, IMAX believes it's in a stronger position to capitalize on them than its theater-operator peers.

IMAX investors didn't immediately respond in any dramatic fashion to the quarterly results. Nevertheless, for those who believe that the future for the movie industry is bright, IMAX looks like a strong way to bet on continued expansion in global entertainment that offers better protection against potential competition than traditional theater operators like AMC.

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Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Imax. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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