Imax CEO: “we’ll probably have about 225 to 230 screens in China in the next couple of years” (The Globe and Mail)

23 July 2012 16 h 21 min Comments Off

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The Canadian-developed big-screen Imax film format began in the 1970s as a means to make spectacular documentaries, but now many Hollywood films are adapted to show in Imax theatres. in an interview with The Globe and Mail, Richard Gelfond, its CEO spoke about Imax in China.

You’ve spent a long time working at expansion in China. Is that developing the way you had hoped?

We have around 80 theatres open in China, and we’ll probably have about 225 to 230 in the next couple of years. We have definitely become an important part of the movie-going experience in China. There was no existing infrastructure, like in western Europe or North America, where you had to convince people to stop going to their local theatre and to go to Imax instead. Imax became part of the explosion of multiplex growth in China. Also, the Chinese really like luxury goods, and especially affordable luxuries. Imax is very much an affordable luxury. Our average box office per screen in China is among the highest in the world.

What are other fast-growing international markets?

Russia is growing very fast, for some of the same reasons as China: an emerging middle class, rapid expansion of multiplexes, and more appetite for entertainment.

AMC, the second biggest U.S. theatre chain, is being taken over by your Chinese partner Wanda Group. What impact will that have on Imax, which has joint ventures with AMC?

It will provide more opportunities. Wanda is an excellent operator. They really understand branding in general, and how to promote the Imax brand in a first-class way. Also, AMC was [previously] owned by an investor group that had one eye on their exit. Wanda has a longer-term perspective, and that will translate into more investment and more marketing.

Is there still room for documentaries and scientific films on Imax?

Without a doubt. We are presently doing one documentary a year, but our hope would be to ramp that up to two or three. One of the issues is that the [museum and science centre] markets have been primarily film, not digital. One of our reasons for shifting to a laser system is to be able to convert the institutional market to digital. When we do that, it will present more opportunities to create content.

Source: The Globe and Mail (22/07/2012)

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