Imax CEO Speaks Out on Colorado Theater Shooting Victims

Richard Gelfond expressed the the giant screen exhibitor's "collective sorrow" after last week's massacre in Aurora, Colo.

TORONTO - Imax CEO Richard Gelfond has expressed the giant screen exhibitor’s "collective sorrow" for the victims of the deadly Colorado shooting at a midnight screening of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises.

"We continue to send our thoughts and prayers to the victims, their families, the Aurora community and our partners throughout the film entertainment community," he told financial analysts during a conference call on Thursday.

Imax, like Hollywood itself, is grappling with the Colorado movie theater massacre while The Dark Knight Rises proves to be a game changer for the Canadian exhibitor as it expands its global network.

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"This epic finale brings Imax differentiation to the next level,” Gelfond said as the exhibitor aims to distinguish itself from traditional screens at the local multiplex.

Nolan’s latest movie has 72 minutes of footage captured by Imax cameras, and generated an opening weekend box office of $23.8 million in 396 Imax theaters worldwide.

After the initial shock of the Colorado massacre, Imax execs were able to focus on the initial box office numbers, and noticed the action tentpole was doing better overseas than at home.

The initial domestic per-screen average was $57,000, against an international per-screen average of $75,000.

Going forward, Gelfond insisted The Dark Knight Rises was meeting expectations for its performance on Imax screens.

"I think it will have a long run," he said, hinting at a possibly longer stay in Imax theaters than initially projected.

"From what I’ve seen, internationally we will be better than we thought and the (tragedy) fallout may make the domestic box office flatter than we thought," he added in his comments to analysts. 

The giant screen exhibitor is also cautiously optimistic that Nolan's latest movie will make it into Imax theaters in China, although dates have not yet been confirmed.

Imax is also hoping the Warner Bros. blockbuster transcends the current financial quarter to spur additional theater and Hollywood film signings down the road.

"Iconic Imax films like this one have historically been a catalyst for new theater deals and film deals that feature Imax differentiation, which further fuels growth for the company over the long term," Gelfond argued.

He added discussions on new theater deals following the release of The Dark Knight Rises have not yet started, as global exhibitors are still digesting the box office results.

The Dark Knight Rises providing ballast to Imax is key because the exhibitor’s growing theater network is giving it global scale to drive recurring revenues.

Imax secured 23 percent revenue growth to $70.2 million during the latest quarter, driven by 54 percent growth in recurring revenues.