IMAX, Gaumont Pathe ink deal for France

To install IMAX technology in 4 EuroPalaces theaters

PARIS -- IMAX Corp. and leading French movie theater group Gaumont Pathe (EuroPalaces) have signed a deal to install IMAX technology in four of EuroPalaces' theaters across Gaul, IMAX announced Tuesday at a press conference in Paris.

The new joint venture will be run by IMAX and EuroPalaces and the theaters are expected to be completed by end of June 2010.

The deal was signed following the success of Gaumont's Disney Village IMAX at the famed European theme park, plus IMAX ventures in Pathe theatres in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Eindhoven.

The new projection system, which will be put into place in Paris, Lyon, Rouen and Toulouse, can run both IMAX and IMAX 3D presentations.

"It is clear to us that there is a strong demand for The IMAX Experience in France, particularly with the new catalog of movies like 'Harry Potter,' 'Avatar' and Alice in Wonderland,'" EuroPalaces' managing director Franck Lebouchard said.

EuroPalaces boasts 74 movie theaters and 747 screens in France in addition to locations in the Netherlands and in Switzerland.

"France is one of the most important countries in the world as far as the cinema goes, so it was clearly an important target for us from the beginning and an obvious place for us to expand," IMAX Corp. CEO Richard L. Gelfond said in an interview.

IMAX's Gallic invasion is part of the group's global strategy to build IMAX theatres across Europe. "Right now, we're only in 32 multiplexes in Europe, but we could be in as many as 200. We have a long way to go," Gelfond said.

IMAX Corp. is currently in discussions with several other key cities in continental Europe. The IMAX brand has seen a huge jump in business thanks to global blockbuster "Avatar."

IMAX will pass the $100 million mark internationally for "Avatar" next weekend, breaking the group's previous boxoffice record of $14 million internationally for "The Dark Knight."

"'Avatar' was a game-changer in bringing recognition to IMAX," Gelfond said. IMAX is currently developing a portable IMAX system that is set to be finished by the second half of the year. The pop-up theaters will seat 450 people and will be available for use throughout the world.