Despite the number of productions delayed this year by the coronavirus pandemic, Imax CEO Richard Gelfond said on CNBC Monday the New Year could prove to be a lucrative one for his company.
While studios paused recording, film releases were also delayed as cinemas closed across the country in response to the Covid-19 outbreak earlier this year. Gelfond expects at least some of the revenue that was missed in 2020 will be amortized if optimistic predictions to contain the global health crisis work as hoped and give Imax a boost when movie lovers look for immersive entertainment they can't can at home.
"In a way, 2021 is an embarrassment of wealth when things open at the beginning of the year," he said in an interview with Closing Bell. "There is a lot of content, and that applies worldwide."
Highly anticipated films Gelfond is betting on release next year include "Top Gun: Maverick", "Black Widow" and "Fast & Furious 9". Each of their planned releases for 2020 has been postponed to 2021. Imax also has contact with overseas box offices with locations in 82 countries where other films are also lagging behind, Gelfond said. North America accounts for a third of Imax's global business.
Imax had its most successful year in 2019 with box office sales of $ 1.035 billion. It was the second year in a row that the company had revenues of more than $ 1 billion. This streak was broken in 2020.
Imax sales of at least $ 370 million reached $ 395.7 million in 2019 for three consecutive years. Sales have suffered heavily in the last three quarters and are 70% lower than in the same period last year of 70 months.
"Fortunately, there is already a large backlog of films," said Gelfond.
As vaccination campaigns begin around the globe and health professionals plan potential reopening schedules, companies are planning when to expect business to rebound to pre-pandemic levels.
Gelfond plans to improve business at the Imax theaters by the summer with the launch of Top Gun: Maverick starring Tom Cruise and Jennifer Connelly.
"I think by then you will be nearing 100% and then it will sure be fully open by the fourth quarter," he said. Given the optimism that the US economy will recover quickly after the country hits ideal levels of immunity, "I think it is very likely that things will open up here in the second quarter."
Imax's shares rose 4% on Monday to trade at $ 17.70. The stock has fallen 13% since the start of the year.