Imax Rides ‘Avatar’ Mania Past Wall Street Projections With $98 Million in Q4 Revenue

Revenue dipped 10% year-over-year, but the premium format company expects a return to pre-pandemic profits in 2023

IMAX Earnings
Photo illustration by TheWrap

Thanks in large part to Disney’s “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” and “Avatar: The Way of Water,” Imax got back into the black during the final quarter of 2022 and beat Wall Street projections.

Imax reported quarterly revenue of $98 million, down from a year ago when “Spider-Man: No Way Home” pushed revenue to $108 million but up a dramatic 44% from Q3 2022 when the entire exhibition industry struggled with a threadbare release slate and decades-low grosses in August and September. The premium format company reported earnings of $2.6 million or 19 cents per share, an improvement from last quarter’s loss of 3 cents per share and beating projections of 15 cents per share.

While Imax’s total box office reached only $177 million in Q3, “Avatar: The Way of Water” alone nearly eclipsed that total with $160 million grossed in Q4. The overall quarterly cume worldwide reached $251.6 million, a 42% increase from last quarter.

Imax has further cemented its position as a major contributor to the success of blockbusters upon which the box office and exhibitors have become even more reliant than before the COVID-19 pandemic. As “Avatar: The Way of Water” reached an astonishing $2.24 billion in global box office grosses, Imax estimates that 11% of that total has come from tickets sold for screenings in its auditoriums.

But like the rest of the movie theater industry, Imax couldn’t entirely escape the feast-or-famine nature of the box office in 2022, and the annual results show it. Revenue improved by 18% from 2021 at $300 million and the company’s adjusted net earnings for the year remained low at $3.2 million, though that was an improvement from the $8.4 million loss in 2021. That equates to earnings of 6 cents per share for the year after a 14 cents per share loss in 2021.

Signs point to Imax posting a stronger Q1 over last year thanks to a record $61.3 million Lunar New Year period in China along with holdover grosses from “Avatar 2” and $24 million grossed worldwide during the opening weekend of “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.” Imax will also support several March blockbusters including MGM’s “Creed III,” Warner Bros./New Line’s “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” and Lionsgate’s “John Wick: Chapter 4.”

“Imax fully expects to resume pre-pandemic levels of performance in 2023, as we surge into the year with strong dual tailwinds — the record-breaking performance of ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ and the rapid reopening of China,” CEO Rich Gelfond said in a statement. “Already in the new year, we’ve delivered our highest grossing first-run release ever with the ‘Avatar’ sequel, our best Chinese New Year box office ever, and multisystem agreements — demonstrating our prospects for strong box office and global network growth in 2023.”