Imax to Expand Asian Local Film Releases

The giant screen exhibitor considers releasing non-English films in Japan, South Korea and Russia.

TORONTO -- Imax is looking at releasing local films in Japan and South Korea after the successful release in China of Aftershock, the Chinese-language film.  

“Japan has nine theatres and five in backlog,  so we’re starting to look around for a Japanese property,” Imax CEO Richard Gelfond said Thursday.

As foreign audiences figure ever-larger in Imax’s growth plans, the strategy is getting the exhibitor to a critical mass of theatres in a market before releasing non-English local films.

Imax has hired a film executive in Los Angeles to sift through mainstream Japanese titles for one that can be digitally-remastered for its theatre network in Japan. 

Key criteria for Imax includes the right marketing plan and audience for a local title, and ensuring the director shares a big screen vision.

Toronto-based Imax co-released Feng Xiaogang’s Aftershock from the Chinese film studio Huayi Brothers Media last summer.

The film about the survivors of a deadly 1976 earthquake quickly became China’s top domestic film release.

Key to the success of the local Aftershock release was the explosive growth in the number of cinema screens in China.

Gelfond sees similar screen growth in the South Korean and even Russia, giving Imax runway to eventually release local mainstream titles in those markets.

“In Russia, we’re getting closer. That’s another market,” he said.