IMAX Is a Bigger Export Than You Think

IMAX's (NYS: IMAX) largest market outside of the United States keeps growing.

The provider of supersized theatrical experiences is announcing a pair of agreements with China's Broadway Theatre Company to install a total of four digital IMAX projection systems across Greater China.

IMAX's overseas push isn't new. It inked a deal with a leading exhibitor in India for expansion in the world's second-most-populous nation late last month. IMAX's success -- particularly in China and Russia -- has helped push the company's presence to 583 screens worldwide.

Tack on today's news and there are now 217 IMAX theater systems either open or contracted to open in Greater China.

Stateside investors may not see the corner multiplex as a growth business. Last year was the first time since 1995 that domestic theaters failed to ring up 1.3 billion movie tickets. Attendance is waning as release windows narrow and the proliferation of social networking smokes out a cinematic turkey quickly.

Thankfully there is still growth within this ugly niche.

  • Shares of 3-D projection technologist RealD (NYS: RLD) took off earlier this month after posting better-than-expected quarterly results.

  • Ballantyne Strong (ASE: BTN) revealed last month that it was unloading its flagship analog projector facility to focus on digital equipment distribution and state-of-the-art cinema screen manufacturing.

  • Analysts see National CineMedia (NAS: NCMI) -- the company that you can usually blame for filling your pre-movie screen time with its digital "FirstLook" ads and features -- growing this year. Wall Street is forecasting earnings and revenue to grow by 3% and 6% respectively in 2012. It's not a lot, but certainly not a decline.

Then we get back to IMAX, which also turned heads this morning by revealing that ticket sales for IMAX screenings are at $55 million so far this quarter, well ahead of last year's $38 million at its mid-quarter mark.

The success of last year's Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol carrying over into early 2012 accounts for half of this quarter's box office receipts, but IMAX also points to $11.5 million from Underworld: Awakening, $8.7 million from Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, and $3.7 million from Flying Swords of Dragon Gate. If that last one doesn't sound familiar, it's because it's playing through IMAX's Chinese exhibitors.

Yes, IMAX is a global growth story -- and its swords are certainly flying.

Feature attraction
I've been a believer in IMAX for years. It's been a market beater both times that I have recommended IMAX as an investment to Rule Breakers newsletter subscribers. As part of the CAPScall initiative for accountability, I've also had a bullish IMAX call on Motley Fool CAPS for some time.

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At the time thisarticle was published 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.Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz calls them as he sees them. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. Rick is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.

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