Regal going bigger with Imax

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Fresh off its record $3.6 million opening for Warner Bros. Pictures' "300," Imax Corp. announced two significant U.S. multiplex deals Monday.

The large-format theater company, which has been under duress during the past year because of two failed attempts to find a buyer for the business, said it is forming a joint venture with Regal Cinemas for two Imax MPX theater systems at multiplexes in San Diego and Portland, Ore.

The Toronto-based company also signed its first deal with Dickinson Theatres, its largest lease agreement since 2004. For the first time, the Kansas-based exhibition chain will install Imax theaters in five of its new multiplexes throughout the Midwest.

Adopting a structure similar to Imax's five-theater deal with AMC Entertainment in May 2005, Regal will supply the auditoriums and Imax will supply the system, with both parties sharing in the film revenue. Imax is making joint venture partnerships with exhibitors a priority in its efforts to expand its giant-screen theater network.

"Regal is a natural fit for this type of partnership, and we are confident that its experience in the Imax theater business will contribute to the success of these new theaters," Imax co-chairmen/CEOs Richard Gelfond and Bradley Wechsler said.

During the weekend, Imax notched unprecedented success with the debut of Zack Snyder's "300," which generated a staggering $58,000 per-screen average. The R-rated epic drama blew past previous record holder "Superman Returns," even though it didn't play in Imax's highest-grossing theaters — those located inside museums and other institutions.

As for the Regal deal, new Imax installations at the Edwards Mira Mesa Stadium 18 in San Diego and the Regal Cinemas Bridgeport 18 in Portland are on schedule to open in time for the May 3 bow of Sony Pictures' "Spider-Man 3."

Regal also will install an Imax theater at the newly redeveloped Pointe Complex in Orlando. While that theater is expected to be open in time for "Spider-Man," it will be operated under Imax's existing arrangement with Regal.

Dickinson Theatres will open its Imax theaters in Mesa, Ariz., Little Rock, Ark., Springfield, Mo., and Wichita, Kan., with the fifth location to be determined. Using Imax's less expensive MPX technology, Dickinson will install its first theater this year. The next three will be installed in 2008, and the fifth is scheduled for 2009.
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