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Imax Has Challenge Finding New Movie Pre-Releases After 'Mission Impossible 4'

Tom Cruise
Paramount Pictures

Rival exhibitors with a small Imax footprint present a hurdle to the giant screen exhibitor snagging additional early window engagements domestically.

TORONTO – A U.S. market-first that has Imax Corp. pre-releasing Mission Impossible 4 this Christmas has apparently stirred envy among some rival exhibitors.

The large format exhibitior has found securing additional early window engagements for studio pictures beyond the Tom Cruise-starrer faces opposition from exhibitors with a small Imax footprint.

“When you break tradition in Hollywood, there’s obvious concerns. Some exhibition chains that have a presence in Imax are happy, and exhibitors with less Imax presence are less happy,” Gelfond told financial analysts Thursday about talks with major studios about releasing more films early in its large format theaters.

The giant screen exhibitor has had earlier success with Imax-only runs for Harry Potter, Tron and I Am Number Four titles in select international markets like France and Russia.

The attraction for Imax is obvious: the giant screen exhibitor can create its own buzz around a film release.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol has around 30 minutes of footage shot using Imax cameras.

Imax hopes patrons who see the movie on its screens from December 16, ahead of a December 21 wide release, will take to Twitter and Facebook to comment positively about what they’ve seen.

And that could boost foot traffic to its blown-up screening of Mission Impossible 4 after the first week.

“That will help us index well after the movie opens,” Gelfond predicted.

But getting traction for more early releases domestically after the upcoming Mission Impossible 4 release remains a challenge given reticence in Hollywood to break with tradition.

“Can it happen again? We’ve had a number of discussions. But it is Hollywood. There are obstacles,” Gelfond said.

To get round those obstacles, Imax is continuing to aggressively expand overseas. Gelfond has been in China for two weeks, from where he addressed financial analysts Thursday after Imax released its third quarter results.

Imax revealed that 75% of new theaters opening in next 15 months will be in international markets, especially China, Russia, Brazil and India.

Given that opportunity, Imax has increased the number of worldwide theater zones that is targeting for growth from 1150 to 1250 to 1500 to 1550.

China is Imax’s fastest growing exhibition market currently, driven by a rising middle class market looking for out-of-home entertainment.

As a measure of that potential, Imax will shortly open DreamWorks’ Real Steel on 48 screens in the Chinese market,