Imax Corp. is rethinking the investment it made in “Marvel’s Inhumans” that brought the show’s first two episodes to the big screen.
The premium theater exhibitor reported better-than-expected third-quarter earnings on Thursday, boosting shares more than 6% in intraday trade on Friday. But on the company’s quarterly earnings call, Chief Executive Richard Gelfond told analysts that in the future Imax would probably avoid deals like the one made for “Inhumans.”
“Going forward, we intend to take a more conservative approach consistent with the ‘Game of Thrones’ approach to capital investments and content,” Gelfond said, according to a FactSet transcript. “We will be more conservative when considering whether to invest our own capital; and if so, to what extent.”
took an $11.1 million writedown from its investment in “Inhumans.” Gelfond would only say that Imax’s investment was “meaningful.”
The show premiered in September to scathing reviews. Variety’s Maureen Ryan said: “Do not spend any of your limited time on this planet watching this show. If you have a superpower, use it to race away from ‘Inhumans’ faster than the speed of light.”
When asked about the show recently, Marvel Studios’ head Kevin Feige avoided the question altogether.
The Marvel brand, however, helped “Inhumans” get off to a commendable start ratings wise, before they fell off later in the season.
Imax signed a deal to co-produce the series and exclusively premiere the first two episodes for two weeks in theater worldwide. The box office reception — $3.5 million—was below Imax’s expectations.
Walt Disney Co.
had initially planned to add an Inhuman’s movie to its film slate for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but after scrapping the feature film in April last year it landed at ABC as a TV series.
Gelfond seemed surprised that audiences might have expected a Marvel-branded project premiering in theaters with investment from Imax to be of a higher quality.
“We believe one of the biggest contributors to the less-than-forecasted theatrical performance was a misalignment of customer expectations,” Gelfond said. “Customers expected a production akin to a mega-budget blockbuster movie, rather than pilots for a television show.
“Moreover, the fact that this was Marvel IP set the bar at a level you wouldn’t see from other pieces of content or IP because of the reputation and the high production value of Marvel movies.”
Imax management said that one of the benefits to co-producing the show is the potential for alternative revenue streams, such as licensing revenue, that might have a longer life.
The company has screened TV shows in theaters in the past, most notably Time Warner Inc.-owned
HBO’s “Game of Thrones” back in 2015, and Gellfond said he still views such alternative content as an attractive opportunity for Imax.