When I made IMAX (NYS: IMAX) my top stock pick for 2011, I saw a great value in a growth stock that could generate returns for years to come. Through the first few months of the year, that pick looked genius as the company signed big deals to add theaters in China -- and the stock kept rising.
But the shine has worn off IMAX, and after three disappointing earnings reports and a slew of mediocre movies, the stock is back where it traded in the summer of 2010.
But there are still plenty of reasons to like IMAX, reasons I think the market is overlooking.
It's all about the movies
IMAX thrives on a specific type of action film, and 2010 was a historically good year for IMAX-type movies. You needed to look no further than Avatar for a movie that could make investors smile for the entire year. But 2011 has been the opposite with films like Super 8, Contagion, Real Steel, and Puss in Boots. Outside of Harry Potter and Transformers, the year has been mostly a dud.
But that might be turning around with a few upcoming films. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol opens in IMAX theaters five days before regular theaters and should be just the kind of film the company needs. Next year, we have new editions of Time Warner's (NYS: TWX) Batman, as well as Sony's (NYS: SNE) Spider-Man and Men in Black, all movies that are built for IMAX. So as bad as 2011 has been, there may be light at the end of the tunnel.
International is key
IMAX's international growth is just beginning, with 85 to 90 theaters expected to be open in China by year's end and a backlog of over 100 more theaters. That's up from 40 open theaters to end 2010. And international per-screen average box office is 1.9 times what IMAX gets in the U.S., where it still outpaces traditional theaters by a wide margin.
International films are now being released in IMAX as well, another growth avenue for the company. IMAX has had a slower, more measured approach to expansion -- unlike RealD (NYS: RLD) in the 3-D arena, which expanded as quickly as possible -- but the pace is beginning to pick up, and that should be a positive for investors.
Foolish bottom line
This year has been rough for IMAX, but I think there are a lot of positives to look forward to as the calendar flips to 2012. Theater growth is picking up pace, blockbuster movies appear to be lining up in IMAX's favor, and the stock is trading at a more attractive level than it was a few months ago.
At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributorTravis Hoiumowns shares of IMAX. You can follow Travis on Twitter at@FlushDrawFool, check out hispersonal stock holdingsor follow his CAPS picks atTMFFlushDraw.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of IMAX. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.
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