Imax Forced to Decide Between 'Gravity,' 'Hunger Games' in China
TORONTO -- Imax has another fight between dueling Hollywood blockbusters on its hands in China.
The good news for the giant screen exhibitor is Alfonso Cuaron's space epic Gravity and Lionsgate's The Hunger Games: Catching Fire are both getting much-coveted releases in China.
The problem is they're set to debut on back-to-back days, with Gravity opening on Nov. 20 and the second installment in the Hunger Games franchise launching a day later.
That nearly simultaneous debut for both films makes Imax concerned that one film will cannibalize the other's business.
"We'll have to make a decision with our exhibition partners on which film is likely to play stronger, and they'll want to adjust the schedule," Imax CEO Richard Gelfond told analysts Thursday during a conference call.
Gelfond added there's more flexibility in China for screen-sharing, so both Gravity and Catching Fire can be played at the same time.
In addition, Gravity is only 90 minutes long, allowing an extra show each day.
"You'd rather they not open one on top of another, but there are ways to minimize the fallout from that," Gelfond said.
Warner Bros' 3D blockbuster has surprised by outperforming for Imax, making the giant-screen exhibitor somewhat appreciative of the problem.
"You have to look at the bigger picture. Gravity came out of nowhere, and got into China," and might not have, Gelfond said.
Imax is also expecting a big performance at the box office for Catching Fire, which includes the use of Imax cameras to capture the full-screen action when Jennifer Lawrence's character Katniss Everdeen enters the arena to fight in the 75th Annual Games.
Lionsgate also produced an earlier behind-the-scenes feature on Catching Fire and has included Imax in its marketing campaign.
"We have a layered campaign with that film (Catching Fire). And based on initial instincts, I think that, just like the last film, it will do remarkably well," Greg Foster, CEO of Imax Entertainment and senior executive vp of Imax Corp., told analysts during the call.