‘Shang-Chi,’ ‘Free Guy’ Lift Imax Earnings to Pandemic Era High

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Marvel movies like “Black Widow” and “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” and populist crowd-pleasers like “Free Guy” propelled Imax to its best quarter since COVID-19 altered the landscape of the movie business.

Revenues for the three-month period, ending on Sept. 30, surged 51.9% to $56.6 million. That compared favorably to the $37.3 million in revenue that Imax reported in the year-ago period. Imax didn’t make a profit during the quarter, but its losses shrank, coming in at $8.4 million compared to the $47.2 million in losses that the big screen company logged in the same frame from 2020. Adjusted net losses per share came in at 8 cents, down from 75 cents in the same period in 2020.

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The global box office has been slow to dig out from the pandemic, but Imax has fared better than other exhibitors. Its premium formats have resonated with blockbuster hungry crowds, with Imax contributing a significant share of ticket sales to recent releases such as “No Time to Die” and “Dune,” both of which fell outside of this quarter.

Imax said it made more than $142 million for the quarter, a sign that ticket sales are rising. That pales in comparison to its October results, which will set a record for the company, with more than $100 million in sales.

“The world is back,” Imax CEO Richard L. Gelfond told Variety. “October has alleviated all my doubts. When you look ahead to some of the movies coming out, it’s hard not to get excited.”

Those films include not only sequels to “Spider-Man” and “The Matrix,” but also “Eternals,” another Marvel adventure, and “Ghostbusters Afterlife,” which Gelfond told investors had played well at CinemaCon (the annual exhibition confab is not exactly a tough crowd. Aspiring Pauline Kaels these theater owners are not).

Studios have been experimenting with shorter theatrical windows during coronavirus, with some, such as Warner Bros., releasing movies simultaneously on streaming services. Warner will soon embrace a 45 day exclusive release beginning in 2022 joining other major studios. Gelfond doesn’t sound too worried about all the tinkering.

“We don’t prefer the simultaneous release because it leads to piracy,” he said. “But if you’re going to leave your home for a premium experience, we’re able to provide a unique option.”

Imax reported $193 million of cash on its books, with debt of $233 million, leaving it well capitalized.

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