Fans of the hit movie "The Wizard of Oz" got exciting news last week. To celebrate the movie's 75th anniversary, MGM will bring the movie in a new 3D version to IMAX (NYSE:IMAX) screens around the United States, and several international markets. While fans of the movie are the obvious winners, investors in IMAX should see the benefit of similar moves like this.
IMAX has had success with bringing old movies back as limited releases. IMAX recently brought "Jurassic Park" to screens for a limited release. The movie made $6 million on IMAX screens during its opening week, which represented 32% of the domestic box office. This represented the highest share ever for a large format IMAX movie. "Jurassic Park" was also shown in other theaters around the country, where it opened a total gross of $18.2 million during its opening week.
IMAX also showed old movies "Titanic", "Raiders of the Lost Ark", and "Top Gun" on its large format screens. "Titanic" was a huge success during its limited release. In China, "Titanic" set a new IMAX record with $7 million in opening box office.
"Wizard of Oz" will only be shown in IMAX theaters in the United States. People who want to see the movie in its newest format will have to shell out cash to theaters, in a direct move that will benefit IMAX investors. IMAX investors should realize that this is a huge move as it strengthens the release schedule and also leads the way for possible future movies. The movie will enjoy a one week limited time run beginning September 20th. Over 400 IMAX theaters will show the 1939 masterpiece, including several museums around the United States.
I profiled several huge reasons to own IMAX shares in April. Among the reasons was several new movie studio partnerships that strengthen the release schedule. This news from MGM and IMAX could be bigger than that. The biggest movies will find a way on IMAX screens, as large movie companies try to milk box office revenues in any way possible. While IMAX benefits from this, they also have to find a way to show movies on their screens at all times. This is where releasing old movies comes in as a huge revenue driver. IMAX could easily show five old movies a year, fitting in perfectly between blockbuster releases. Among the comments on an article about "Wizard of OZ" on IMAX was people wanting to see "Gone With the Wind" on the large format screen.
One possibility is bringing the "Star Wars" franchise to IMAX before the next release in 2015. I profiled how 2015 is truly the blockbuster year for movies and listed IMAX as a one of the biggest companies that will benefit. Keep in mind, that IMAX has a strong relationship with Disney (NYSE:DIS) and could score big if it can release classic movies like "Star Wars", "The Empire Strikes Back", and "Return of the Jedi".
"Wizard of Oz" is one of the most beloved films of all time. The movie ranks on several American Film Institute lists, including:
· 100 Movies: #6
· 100 Movies 10th Anniversary: #2
· 100 Thrills: #43
· 100 Heroes & Villains: #4
· 100 Songs: #1
· 100 Quotes: #4
· Greatest Movie Musicals: #3
· 100 Cheers: #26
The legendary movie also has a solid 99% on Rotten Tomatoes and scores an 8.2 user rating on IMDB. That places the movie on its well-known Top 250 movie list (#149).
"Wizard of Oz" surprisingly wasn't a huge box office success back in 1939. The movie has been reissued several times over the last twenty five years with moderate success. Consider these box office numbers from Box Office Mojo:
· 1989: $0.61 million
· 1998: $14.82 million
· 2002: $0.14 million
· 2009: $1.14 million
The success of "Wizard of Oz" in IMAX theaters could also be helped by the recent prequel "Oz The Great and Powerful". That movie scored an $80.3 million North American open. Of the North American opening box office revenue, 53% came from 3D screenings. IMAX showings also made up $8.2 million of the domestic opening box office. The movie went on to gross $233.0 million domestically and $257.0 million in international markets. Full "Wizard of Oz" mania could help the success of the 75th anniversary celebration of the original.
The current quarter (second) includes the releases of "Iron Man 3", "Star Trek: Into Darkness", and "Man of Steel". The first two movies performed extremely well in IMAX and "Man of Steel" is expected to do the same. IMAX's fourth quarter may be the most exciting with releases of "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire", "Ender's Game" and "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug". Here is a look at the current lineup for the rest of 2013:
· June 14: "Man of Steel"
· June 20: "Despicable Me 2" (Select locations)
· June 21: "World War Z" (Select locations)
· July 12: "Pacific Rim"
· August 2: "300: Rise of an Empire"
· August 9: "Elysium"
· September 6: "Riddick"
· September 20: "Wizard of Oz" (Exclusive Release)
· October 3: "Stalingrad" (Russia/CIS Only)
· October 4: "Gravity"
· October 18: "Seventh Son 3D"
· November 1: "Ender's Game"
· November 22: "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire"
· December 13: "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug"
Shares of IMAX trade above $26 at the time of writing. That places them close to their 52 week high of $28.99. Analysts on Yahoo Finance see the company earning $0.92 for fiscal 2013. Analysts see the company reporting revenue of $301.6 million, a 6.1% increase from the previous year. These estimates come prior to the "Wizard of Oz" announcement.
In the first quarter, IMAX met analysts expected earnings per share of $0.08. For the second quarter, analysts expect to see earnings per share of $0.27 from revenue of $76.8 million. The third quarter was the weak quarter on paper for IMAX, with releases of "Pacific Rim", "Elysium" and "Riddick". IMAX has now created an easy opportunity to pass analysts' estimates for revenue and earnings per share. In my opinion, "Wizard of Oz", with its exclusive IMAX release, will be enough to push fiscal 2013 earnings per share over $1.00. More importantly, the move to bring "Wizard of Oz" to IMAX screens could be a precursor to future revenue sources.
Once seen as a gimmicky company, IMAX has transformed into a serious box office company. The company has expanded internationally, created joint revenue theater offerings and created additional revenue streams. The company has IMAX cameras, which are used to film new movies. IMAX also gets early premiers like Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, and now scores the exclusive rights to "Wizard of Oz" 75 years later. Follow the yellow brick road and put IMAX in your portfolio.
Disclosure: I am long IMAX. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.