Imax CEO Bullish Over 2016 Box-Office Prospects

Richard Gelfond - H 2015
AP Images

Richard Gelfond - H 2015

"This year will end up not dissimilar to 2015, but for different reasons," Richard Gelfond told market watchers when asked to predict business at the local multiplex this year.

Despite record-setting box office for Hollywood in 2015, Imax CEO Richard Gelfond is bullish about prospects at the local multiplex for the giant-screen exhibitor this year.

Gelfond on Tuesday discounted earlier predictions that 2016 would be a "disappointment" after box-office performance last year. "For the first couple months of 2016, we're just way up from where we were early on in 2015 on like-to-like gross box office," Gelfond said at the Jefferies Media & Communications Conference in New York.

The early going for the giant-screen exhibitor has been buoyed by Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and the record February showing for Deadpool, also playing on Imax screens. And, despite gloom over the economy in China, Gelfond said the box office in the Chinese market is strong so far in 2016.

"Over Chinese New Year this year, versus last year, the overall box office was up 87 percent. That hardly sounds like people jumping off of buildings. That's up dramatically," the Imax topper told analysts. Echoing other North American exhibitors, Gelfond said 2016 will see box-office performers like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Captain America: Civil War, both of which were partly shot with Imax cameras, underpin business for the exhibitor.

And he sees breakout hits helping boost overall box-office performance this year. "2015 was the year of the huge blockbuster.... This (2016) is a year where I think there's a lot of doubles and triples," Gelfond said.

"This year will end up not dissimilar to 2015, but for different reasons," he added. Imax will release its latest financial results Wednesday.