Imax CEO Rich Gelfond predicts the long SAG-AFTRA strike will settle relatively soon. If, instead, it drags on, theater chains will face a rocky second half of 2024 but he sees the large-format exhibitor standing apart.
“An exhibitor who programs a multiplex needs lots of movies,” he told Wall Streeters after Imax reported a record third quarter. “All Imax needs is one blockbuster, one concert film, or one streaming film” at a time. So “I feel better about our growth prospects versus exhibition’s prospects regardless of when the strike settles.”
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One major release calendar shift – Legendary Entertainment and Warner Bros. moving Dune: Part Two by Denis Villeneuve from Nov. 3 to March 15 of 2024 — was a boon, he said, enabling Imax to play The Marvels and The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes in the current quarter.
The schedule continues to shift, Paramount has moved Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part Two from next June to Memorial Day weekend 2025 and pushed A Quiet Place: Day One from March to June of next year. And Deadline reported exclusively earlier this month that Marvel Studios‘ Deadpool 3 won’t be making its May 3 start-of-summer theatrical release date.
SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP are meeting today in an attempt to end the 100-plus day work stoppage.
“There’s not a lot of open issues out there so you would think that this would be settled relatively in the near term. But there is so much emotion involved in these things, and when emotion clashes with the real world it is very hard to make concrete predictions.”
“In terms of how it affects 2024…it depends when it settles. If it doesn’t settle until six months from now, yes, we are going to have an issue in 2024 because a lot of the films that are on our slate for the second half of 2024 haven’t finished filming,” he said. “If it settles in the next couple of months, by Thanksgiving, I will feel a lot better.”
Imax revenue jumped more than 50% last in the third quarter, led by Oppenheimer, more local language films, concert films and live events as the company diversifies its content offering. The Talking Heads remastered 1984 concert film Stop Making Sense premiere at the Toronto Film Festival was its biggest live event ever, then did a week exclusively in Imax theaters, segueing to Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour and, on Dec. 1, the film of Beyonce’s Renaissance world tour.
Some streamers are ramping up theatrically and Imax repped more than 14% of the domestic opening box office for Apple’s just released Killers Of The Flower Moon.
The other half of Imax’s business is new installations with company generating 120 signings for new and upgraded Imax systems worldwide this year to date, including a contract in China last week with Hengdian Films for 20 new theaters — its biggest deal in four years. Gelfond told Deadline he was heading to Australia today to reopen the biggest Imax theater in the world in Syndney.
Imax stock opened strong today but is now down about 3%. Gelfond has been on a crusade to woo investors and boost the share price.
On the call he urged Wall Streeters to “just sit down with a pen” and do the math on Imax numbers. “There’s an awful lot of upside.”
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