Imax, Lark tune up opera-house screen


TORONTO -- Giant-screen exhibitor Imax Corp. on Tuesday said it has signed a deal with Asian multiplex operator Lark International Multimedia to turn an opera house attached to a multiplex in Wuhan, China, into a large-format theater.

The retrofitted theater, said to be complete and operational by the first quarter of the new year, follows Toronto-based Imax and Lark International comes on the heels of a previous deal to install six Imax screens in Chinese multiplexes by 2009.

Imax said the Wuhan theater will be the first proposed Lark International large-format screen to launch, with the other six theaters set to open at a later date.

Robert Vallone, Lark International director and general manager, said in a statement that the "boxoffice success" of existing Imax theaters in the Asian market and the appeal of the Imax format, convinced him to add another large-format theater to its emerging stable of Imax screens.

"This unique cinematic experience, combined with the favorable economics of the Imax MPX business model, is the reason we strongly regard Imax as an important part of our development plans in the region," Vallone said.

The latest theater deal with Lark International, which builds and operates U.S.-style multiplexes in China and Hong Kong, brings to 25 the number of giant screens that Imax expects to have in China by the end of 2009.

Lark International owns and operates Studio City Cinema Holdings Ltd., which runs multiplex cinemas in China, and UA Cinema Circuit Limited, a circuit of 55 screens in Hong Kong.