IMAX Revenue Hits All-Time High in Q4 Thanks to ‘Star Wars’

The giant screen company’s global box office hit $1 billion in 2015, a 31% increase over 2014.

The Force is with IMAX Corp. The giant screen theater company’s fourth quarter and year-end earnings reflected that Wednesday.

December returns from Disney’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” capped a huge year at the box office for IMAX, which saw its global grosses hit $1 billion, a 31 percent increase over 2014, the company reported. Universal’s blockbusters “Jurassic World” and “Furious 7” and Disney’s “Avengers: The Age of Ultron” were also driving forces for the year’s surge.

The gain was well over the industry average of 10 percent growth and that, along with its successful October launch of IMAX China on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange — which has seen share value rise 45 percent since — and the fruits of an aggressive expansion strategy drove a strong fourth quarter and year.

Revenues hit $119.3 million for the quarter, up 16.5 percent from the year-ago period, helping to drive an annual revenue surge to $373.8 million, a 28.7 percent gain.

Adjusted earnings for the quarter grew 5.8 percent to $48.1 million. Adjusted net income after non-controlling interest of $27.3 million grew 12.6 percent and adjusted earnings per share of $0.39 also grew 14.7 percent. Net income after non-controlling interest was $22.5 million, or $0.32 per diluted share, which was under the consensus estimate was $0.35 per share.

Adjusted earnings rose 29.8 percent to $140.8 million in Q4. Adjusted net income of $73 million grew 39 percent and adjusted net earnings per diluted share of $1.02 grew 36 percent, and net income attributable to common shareholders was $55.8 million, or $0.78 per diluted share.

IMAX CEO Richard L. Gelfond said 2015 “was undoubtedly a historic year for IMAX — we delivered a record $1 billion in global box office, added 136 theaters to our network to bring our global total to over 1,000 screens, launched our highly anticipated laser projection system, and of course, successfully listed our China business on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.”

Gelfond noted that “The Force Awakens” brought in 12 percent of the box office from 2 percent of the IMAX locations while it was setting an opening weekend record of $48 million worldwide on 677 screens, beating the “Jurassic World” record of $44.1 million.

Can IMAX continue to grow without the parade of blockbusters we saw last year? Gelfond was upbeat about 2016 too.

“We may not have as many home runs as we did in 2015, but I think 2016 is going to have a lot of doubles and triples, so I feel pretty good about it,” he said. “With so many major movie franchises releasing important sequels in 2016 and 2017, we believe we’re extremely well positioned for success in the years ahead.”

IMAX stock traded up  3.18 percent on Wednesday in the morning session, reaching $32.40. That gain was given back in after-hours trading, however, as apparently dissatisfied investors brought the stock down nearly 8 percent to $29.60.

Despite the after-hours retreat, IMAX shares have enjoyed a recent surge which has seen the the stock rise 17 percent in the last week, fueled by a record February showing for “Deadpool” ticket sales.

It was a much-needed bounce for IMAX investors, as  the stock had fallen in each of the three previous months, shedding 19 percent of its value along the way. Most analysts attributed that to “Star Wars” anticipation driving share prices higher ahead of its release, leaving little room for post-release growth.

Deals in the past week for new theaters with T-Joy in Japan and Pathe for France and Switzerland underscored the company’s commitment to growth, said Gelfond, who identified Europe and the Middle East as priority expansion targets this year.

In 2015, IMAX added 136 new installations, up from 113 in 2014. On Wednesday, the company raised its projection for new installations in 2016 to 135-140, up from the 115-120 range to 135-140 range.

There are currently 1,061 IMAX theaters in 67 countries.