IMAX Rollout Continues In Asia

Gail Chiasson, North American Editor

Toronto-based IMAX Corporation, building on a year of unprecedented international network growth and spurred on by the success of such 3D films as Avatar and Alice in Wonderland, has made more agreements in China, Japan and Russia.

IMAX has signed an agreement with Guangzhou Jinyi Film & Television Group Co. Ltd., a leading entertainment developer and exhibitor in China, to open eight IMAX theatres in China. The agreement adds to the four IMAX theatres already contracted between the two parties, bringing the exhibitor’s total number of IMAX theatres scheduled to open by 2014 to 12.

The first installation is scheduled to be completed during Dec., 2010, followed by another five in 2011, four in 2012, one in 2013 and one in 2014. This deal brings the total number of IMAX theatres scheduled to be operating in China by 2014 to 65.

“IMAX represents the world’s best cinematic experience and it is very clear that the IMAX brand is highly regarded by consumers in China, where IMAX screens are significantly outperforming conventional movie screens in both 2D and 3D,” says Shirley Ye, general manager, Guangzhou Jinyi Film and Television Investment Group, Co. Ltd. “We chose to add IMAX locations based on the rapidly growing demand for The IMAX Experience in cities throughout China, and the proven business model of IMAX’s digital projection system.”

IMAX’s revolutionary digital projection system delivers The IMAX Experience and helps drive profitability for studios, exhibitors and IMAX theatres by eliminating the need for film prints, increasing program flexibility and ultimately increasing the number of movies shown on IMAX screens. The system can run both IMAX and IMAX 3D presentations.

IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond says, “Our Chinese network is scheduled to at least double in size over the next couple of years, and the high number of signings we’ve had year-to-date worldwide is positioning us for significant network growth in 2010, 2011 and beyond.”

In Russia, IMAX and Rising Star Media, Russian international theatrical exhibitor, are expanding their relationship by adding an additional IMAX location in Moscow following the success of the exhibitor’s first three IMAX locations in St. Petersburg and Moscow. The new IMAX theatre is scheduled to open in Jan., 2011, bringing the total number of IMAX theatres scheduled to be in operation in Russia by 2012 to 13.

Paul B. Heth, CEO, Rising Star Media, says, “The tremendous, market leading box office grosses of our Kinostar venues with IMAX and the impressive line-up of Hollywood films scheduled for release in IMAX’s format makes this the right time to expand our relationship.”

“Rising Star Media is one of the leading exhibitors in Russia, and its decision to add another IMAX location serves as a great endorsement of our business model,” says Larry O’Reilly, IMAX’s executive vice-president, theatre development.

Rising Star Media, owned by Shari Redstone and Paul Heth in partnership with UFG Asset Management, is Russia’s leading international theatrical exhibitor with Russia’s top grossing cinema complexes in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

In Japan, IMAX and United Cinemas have announced a joint venture agreement to install up to five digital IMAX theatre systems. Three of the systems are confirmed, with two scheduled to be installed in time for the launch of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows this November, and the third scheduled to be installed in either late 2010 or some time in 2011. Under the terms of the agreement, the companies will have an option to install two additional IMAX theatre systems in Japan at a later date.

The deal brings the total number of confirmed joint-venture IMAX theatres scheduled to be operating in Japan by the end of 2010 to eight, compared to four at the mend of 2009.

“Moviegoers in Japan have a growing number of options when deciding how to see a movie, and it is very clear that an increasing number are choosing IMAX as the best way to experience the biggest first-run movies,” says Masanori Miyata, CEO, UC Cinemas. “This joint venture partnership enables us to offer our customers the world’s most popular premium cinema brand.”

“Japan is one of the largest exhibition markets in the world and a growing market for IMAX,” says Gelfond.

As of March 31, 2010, there were 438 IMAX theatres (316 commercial, 122 institutional) operating in 47 countries.

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