Imax 4Q profit down on lower revenue, rising costs

NEW YORK (AP) — Giant-screen movie theater company Imax Corp. on Thursday said its fourth quarter profit plunged 88 percent, mainly due to the absence of a big tax benefit from last year. On an adjusted basis, profit fell about 36 percent, reflecting a revenue dip and higher expenses.

For the three months ended Dec. 31, Imax posted net income of $6.3 million, or 9 cents per share, compared with $54.2 million, or 80 cents per share for the same period in 2010. The year-ago quarter included a non-cash deferred tax benefit of $54.8 million, or 81 cents per share.

Adjusted for deferred tax adjustments and stock compensation costs, Imax said it earned $9.2 million, or 14 cents per share, for the quarter, down from $14.3 million, or 21 cents per share, last year.

Revenue for the period slipped 4 percent to $66.7 million, from $69.2 million in the year-earlier quarter.

Analysts, on average, expected profit of 13 cents per share, on revenue of $63.3 million, according to FactSet. Analysts' estimates typically exclude one-time items.

Expenses for the quarter rose 12 percent to $36.8 million.

The company said unit revenue for its big-screen theater systems and related rental and finance income slid 9 percent to $29.8 million. That was despite the installation of 57 theater systems during the quarter, bringing its total to 634 in 50 countries, including 497 in commercial multiplexes.

Imax signed contracts for 26 more theater installations during the quarter, and expects to install 95 to 100 this year.

"The rapid expansion of our network in 2011 was mostly driven by continued success in China, Russia and North America ," said CEO Richard Gelfond . The company plans to continue expansion in those countries and is also eyeing further growth in markets like South America, Western Europe and India.

The company recently announced plans for several new IMAX theaters in India, which will help it release Bollywood titles in its unique format.

Film revenue was basically flat at $18.1 million for the quarter. The release during the fourth quarter of the latest installment of the Mission: Impossible film series helped results, but gross box office slipped 4 percent to $97.6 million in the quarter of 2011.

For the year Imax earned $15.5 million, or 23 cents per share, down from $100.8 million, or $1.51 per share for all of 2010.

Total revenue was $236.6 million was down 5 percent from $248.6 million in 2010.

The company expects to benefit from a long lineup of films scheduled for this year, including titles like The Avengers, Men in Black 3, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and the finale of the Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises.

Imax shares closed Wednesday at $23.96, up about 31 percent since the start of the year.