Multiplex super-sizer IMAX (NYS: IMAX) continues its globetrotting ways.
IMAX announced a deal with a Chinese exhibitor that will bring four more screens to the world's most populous nation in the coming years. The first theater will open in Tianjin by the end of next year. A second screen will go up in Guangdong a year later. The final two theaters will open in 2014.
This move pushes the number of IMAX screens either open or slated to open in China over the 200 mark.
China has grown to become IMAX's largest market outside of the United States, and we're still barely scratching the surface.
"There are still 35 cities in China with a population of at least one million people that have no movie theaters," IMAX CEO Rich Gelfond points out in this morning's press release.
It's been a good week for IMAX.
Yesterday the entertainment giant announced a deal with Indonesia's largest exhibitor for two IMAX theaters in Jakarta. The first one is scheduled to open in just five months.
Closer to home, IMAX also revealed yesterday that Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol, the fourth installment in Viacom's (NYS: VIA) Mission: Impossible movie series, will open five days earlier on IMAX than it does in conventional movie theaters.
Before any of these three announcements, shares of IMAX had popped 11% higher on Monday after an analyst upgrade and an upbeat corporate presentation. Stifel Nicolaus upgraded the stock, though sticking to its $25 price target, on the company's improving backlog and likelihood of boosted guidance on that front.
Premium cinema is a growing market. Would IMAX have struck a licensing deal with cash-hungry Eastman Kodak (NYS: EK) for the exclusive rights to dozens of patents covering fundamental laser projection technology if better times weren't ahead here?
3-D outfitter RealD (NYS: RLD) has posted three consecutive quarters of better-than-expected profitability.
This may have been a challenging year for exhibitors, but things would have been far worse if IMAX and RealD weren't around to give multiplex operators opportunities for greater revenue. Then again, given IMAX's overseas push in recent years, why limit ourselves to the state of popcorn-munching patrons at the corner multiplex? All the world's a stage -- or, in this case, a screen.
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