Imax Corp. might be finally catching a break after what has been a slow summer for blockbusters this year.
Moviegoers streamed to theaters to catch the "Guardians of the Galaxy," allowing the sci-fi adventure to smash August box office records and rake in $94 million in its opening weekend. And it appears the big-budget film from Marvel Studios played well on Imax theaters around the world as the company also notched record ticket sales.
The Toronto company sold about $16.5 million in "Guardians" tickets globally, nearly tripling the previous August best of $5.9 million by "Elysium." "Guardians" brought $11.5 million domestically on 354 Imax screens, and eight of the 10 best performing locations for the movie were Imax auditoriums. There are about 750 commercial Imax theaters worldwide.
"That good, solid performance shows that consumers are still going to movies, but just needed a reason to do so," said analyst Eric Wold at B. Riley & Co.
Indeed, the summer of 2014 has so far proved a disappointment at the domestic box office.
There have been a number of tentpole releases in the last few months, including blockbusters like "Transformers: Age of Extinction," "Godzilla," and "X-Men: Days of Future Past." But the summer has lacked the kind of firepower seen from last year's "Iron Man 3" and "Despicable Me 2." Grosses at domestic box offices are trailing 13% behind last summer's.
Analysts were surprised at the strong showing for "Guardians" over the weekend — it was only expected to gross about $66 million. But, Imax Corp. Chief Executive Richard Gelfond predicted that it would deliver some big numbers when the company posted second-quarter results last month.
"If we as a company had to pick a film that we think most people don't have on their radar screen, but we think will do very well this summer, it would be 'Guardians of the Galaxy,' " he said at the time.
However, the strong box office for "Guardians," which is expected to top $300 million worldwide, hasn't done much for Imax's stock.
Shares were down about 1% at $26.48 in trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday, though it did get an initial 2% bump during the previous session as investors responded to the box-office tally. The stock has been on somewhat of a rebound from July's dip below $25, but is still down 10% on the year.
Wold said that "one movie will not make or break the stock," but still thinks it should shoot past $32 within the next year. He expects a number of heavily anticipated movies to drive fans to Imax screens, including "Avengers: Age of Ultron," "Fast and Furious 7" and J.J. Abrams' "Star Wars: Episode VII."
He also said demand for Imax screens was steady. The company has 419 orders from theaters to install Imax big screens, which can accommodate images of a larger size and resolution. Imax does between 110 and 115 installations yearly, so the backlog should keep the company busy for the next three to four years, Wold said.