Giant screen purveyor Imax Corp. has repurchased $42m of its own debt for one-quarter the issue price, alleviating refinancing concerns and placing the big-screen movie maker and large-format exhibitor on firmer financial footing.

By noon on Tuesday (Jan 8), Imax's share price had risen nearly 50% on the day - from $2.51 (C$4) to $3.76 (C$6) on the Toronto stock exchange. Last year, the company's share value hit a record low of $0.50 (80 Canadian cents).

In a statement the company said it has retired approximately $90 million of the original $100 million issue. The $90 million of notes were repurchased in exchange for both cash and 1.7 million common shares at an aggregate average cost of less than 24% of face value.

"The retirement of 90% of these notes virtually eliminates any April 2003 re-financing risk and puts IMAX on a solid financial footing to implement our long-term growth strategy," said IMAX co-CEOs Richard L. Gelfond and Bradley J. Wechsler. "We were able to retire these notes at a significant discount to face value: 24c on the dollar, while maintaining an appropriate level of cash to run our business. Almost all of our remaining debt consists of our senior notes due December of 2005."

Gelfond and Wechsler said the debt retirement together with a strong opening for the big-screen release of Disney's Beauty And The Beast, (see UK Box office sidebar) was sure to strengthen its customer base and enhance shareholder value.

The Jan 1 US opening gross of the large-format Beauty And The Beast has not been revealed by either Imax or Disney, nor has it been reported by the usual box-office tracking companies, leading to speculation that a record-breaking figures announcement is due from the distributor.