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The Omicron variant emergence has yet to spook moviegoers, judging by strong pre-sales for Spider-Man and The Matrix franchise pics, Imax CEO Richard Gelfond told an investors conference on Tuesday.
“The public isn’t being scared away by the variant. Obviously they bought those tickets, they intend to use them. So that’s real-world data,” Gelfond told the UBS Global TMT Conference during a session that was webcast. With the giant-screen exhibitor buoyed by Hollywood releasing tentpoles theatrically, pre-sales for Sony’s Spider-Man: No Way Home and Warner Bros.’ The Matrix: Resurrections are powering Imax to a strong close to 2021.
Gelfond underlined that consumers pre-bought tickets for both tentpoles after the Omicron variant emerged, so fans of both franchises factored that into their purchase decisions. At the same time, Gelfond said the spread of the COVID-19 Omicron variant across the world, likely to peak in the second quarter of 2022, will coincide with a strong Hollywood movie slate set to hit theaters at that time.
“I would hope that whatever happens with this variant is dealt with by that time. So I don’t really think it’ll have a material impact,” Gelfond argued. Imax has upcoming releases for three Marvel movie releases like Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Thor: Love and Thunder, DC Comics pics like Batman, and the sequels for Top Gun and Avatar.
“Next year is kind of crazy in terms of the kind of Imax movies coming out,” Gelfond told the investors conference. That said, the Imax boss is not certain 2022 could be a record year for box office globally given the exhibition industry has not yet escaped the grip of the pandemic.
“I like to think so, but when I woke up two weeks ago and heard about a new variant and they didn’t know exactly what it will do, I’ll withhold a little enthusiasm,” Gelfond said of next year setting another record. He also discussed the theatrical market in China, where Imax has a host of movie screens and has diversified into screening local content pics.
“Relations weren’t at their high point,” Gelfond said of U.S.-Chinese relations so far in 2021, but he added the pandemic impact over the last year has had more to do with fewer Hollywood movies playing in China and more delayed local content movies getting onto screens at the local multiplex this year.
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