Imax CEO Sees No "Secular Shift" in Moviegoing After Rough Summer Box Office

Richard Gelfond -Getty -H 2016
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"It's hard to believe that it's a lot more than content issues," Richard Gelfond said of the summer box office.

Imax CEO Richard Gelfond sees little doom and gloom around moviegoing as Hollywood experienced a rough summer at the box office.

"I don't think there's any evidence that there's a secular shift in moviegoing," told the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference on Wednesday. "This was a very disappointing year for content," Gelfond added as he forecast a rebound in box office worldwide.

The head of the giant screen exhibitor said he does see "a lot of people screaming fire," but his company's worldwide box office in 2017 outside the U.S. resembles what it was in 2014, Gelfond said. At the same time, Imax has been diversifying away from a reliance on Hollywood content, included with TV releases to move beyond its movie distribution niche.

The first TV deal with ABC saw the Marvel live-action series The Inhumans bow in its theaters in early September, only to underwhelm at the box office. "It did fine in its first weekend, but when you saw a train coming down the line in It, it made sense to regroup," Gelfond recalled.

Imax pivoted away from The Inhumans to screen New Line's adaptation of Stephen King's It on its screens. Gelfond also reiterated how the giant-screen exhibitor will play more digital 2D versions of Hollywood movies domestically, given a preference by consumers in recent years for 2D over 3D in North America.

"3D doesn't have the traction it had, and we need to program more in 2D," Gelfond said. The Imax boss also expressed optimism about the exhibition market in China.

"It's just what happens when you go from being an emerging market to a maturing market. It's a real market, like the U.S. and Europe," Gelfond said of slowing box-office growth in China after years of exponential growth. "For us, the market is very strong, we have a lot of (theater) backlog there, a lot of theaters there," he added.