Imax Expands Footprint in Theaters With Launch of New Laser Projection System

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Imax CEO Richard Gelfond

The large-format company finds takers in Cineworld/Regal and AMC.

With the launch of a new top-of the-digital-line laser projection system, Imax is striking sizable deals with Cineworld/Regal and AMC.

The large-format company has been quietly demonstrating the new system to exhibitors, studio execs and filmmakers in advance of announcing the new projector at theater owners confab CinemaCon, which opened Monday in Las Vegas.

Cineworld/Regal will add 26 new Imax theaters and upgrade 29 of its existing Imax projectors in the U.S. and Europe with the new system. AMC will upgrade 87 of its Imax projectors at AMC locations. With the deals, these exhibitors have renewed 12-year lease terms, and the new projectors will be installed over the next four years. Additionally, the auditoriums will be renovated, including the installation of Imax’s immersive sound and plush rocker seating.

AMC and Imax are investing roughly $125 million in the AMC rollout, according to AMC chairman and CEO Adam Aron. The 87 Imax projectors at AMC locations will operate under a joint revenue sharing arrangement, though Imax ticket prices will not increase. Cineworld didn’t disclose the value of its deal.

Imax CEO Richard Gelford told The Hollywood Reporter that he expects deals for another 25 laser projectors to be completed in the near future. “Never in our 50-year history have we seen an uptake to a new technology so rapidly,” he said.

Imax launched its first laser projector in 2016, aimed at its largest auditoriums. This new system includes an expanded range of colors and targets all Imax commercial multiplexes, listing in the $600,000-$700,000 price range.

Imax will also continue to offer its 70mm Imax film projection. Of the film and digital offering, Gelfond said, “The difference is really one of taste.”