Imax CEO Defends 'Crouching Tiger 2' Release Plans: "Windows are Going to Hold"

Crouching Tiger Still - H 2014
Courtesy of Netflix

Crouching Tiger Still - H 2014

Rich Gelfond also talked about the global film market at the Abu Dhabi Media Summit

Imax CEO Rich Gelfond on Wednesday defended the company's plan to release Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2 simultaneously on Netflix and in select Imax theaters in the face of opposition from major chains.

"There has been some resistance in our industry," Gelfond told the Abu Dhabi Media Summit 2014 during a Q&A session following his keynote speech. He insisted the deal to debut Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend, produced by The Weinstein Company, on Netflix and on Imax screens was an "experiment" to measure the consumer appetite for day-and-day VOD releases.

Gelfond added Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2 bowing on Netflix screens did not threaten theatrical windows. "For blockbusters, the windows are going to hold for a longer time than we think," he told the Abu Dhabi conference.

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Gelfond pointed to globalization, and its impact on the international box office, as a major trend that Imax and Hollywood studios needed to respond to with a shift overseas. "I believe that the most successful studios will be those that can incorporate their home country's values and cultural identity, while adding subtle nuances to appeal to broad markets," he said during his keynote.

Gelfond said that 70 percent of the global box office is now generated outside of the U.S., with India having the most admissions worldwide: "It would be foolish to ignore those numbers."

Imax has gone from two theaters in 2001 to 15 today, and the company head predicted that screen count would double by 2017. The international film market growth means Hollywood studios have to do more than feature "ethnic actors" in big-budget movies.

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Gelfond pointed to Michael Bay's Transformers: Age of Extinction, whose world premiere took place in Hong Kong in an Imax theater. "It was shot in Hong Kong and mainland China. Local actors were cast for the production and there was even a reality show television contest in China where the winners appeared in the film," he said.

International collaboration has also led major studios to launch international offices, including Legendary Entertainment launching Legendary East in Beijing, and Disney, Viacom and Fox setting up subsidiaries in Mumbai to make Bollywood content.

Gelfond also pointed to the Dalian Wanda Group starting to build a giant movie production complex in Qingdao, Fosun investing $200 million in Jeff Robinov's Studio 8 and Softbank pouring $250 million into Legendary Studios. "While all of this will create competition for Hollywood, it will also force it to challenge the status quo and enhance its own understanding and ability to make better films for wider audiences," he said.