Imax beats projections

Rev for quarter $34 mil, up 9% from a year ago

TORONTO — Bigscreen company Imax outdistanced analyst expectations for the first quarter ended March 31, posting net earnings of $2.4 million on Monday.

Although that figure is down from net earnings a year ago of $10.5 million, last year’s figure was boosted by a $12 million one-time gain on the repurchase of some of Imax’s junior debt. Excluding the gain, net earnings last year would have been $2 million. Analysts were calling for earnings of approximately $1 million this quarter.

Revenue for the quarter was $34 million, up 9% from a year ago, with systems revenue up 9% at $22.3 million, film revenue up 13% at $6.8 million and other revenue holding steady at $4.8 million.

“We are very pleased with our quarterly results, which continue to demonstrate the fundamental positive change that our business has experienced over the last 12 months,” co-CEOs, Rich Gelfond and Brad Wechsler said in a statement.

The momentum in new theater signings that began last year has continued. There were six signings in the quarter, compared with three in the first quarter of 2002.

During the quarter, Imax reached a milestone when it inked to bring the second and third installations of “The Matrix” to the very big screen, with the third pic , “The Matrix: Revolutions,” set to become its first day-and-date release of a Hollywood event pic.

Imax also introduced a lower-cost theater system, Imax MPX, targeted at multiplex operators. Jack Loeks Theaters is its first customer, signing for one MPX theater in the quarter.

Fox, Universal, Disney and Warner Bros. have released films to Imax theaters in the past year, company executives noted in a conference call with analysts.

“The main factor driving both our optimism and our commercial strategy is a fundamental change in our business model in the last 12 months,” Gelfond told analysts. “We’ve taken steps for making the business easier and more profitable for our two key constituencies, the Hollywood studios and commercial exhibitors.”

He said the company’s goal is to make Imax “plug-and-play” for studios and exhibs.

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