Imax Looks to Double Chinese Screen Count Over Five Years

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Imax CEO Richard Gelfond

CEO Richard Gelfond said at a Bloomberg summit he sees screen count increasing from 150 to 400 in the country.

TORONTO – Imax is looking to more than double its theater count in China as it rides that country's multiplex-building wave.

With China's Wanda and South Korea's CJ CGV buying up its supersized screens in China, Imax CEO Richard Gelfond on Thursday said at Bloomberg's The Year Ahead 2014 conference that he sees his screen count increasing from 150 today to 400 over the next five years.

"I feel like I've got the wind at my back," Gelfond said, adding: "I'm a huge China bull."

Imax's theater backlog includes a recent 30-screen deal with CJ CGV, and Wanda and Imax recently revised their 2011 joint revenue sharing agreement to add at least 40 and as many as 120 new theaters throughout China.

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The latest deal also makes Wanda the Canada-based giant screen exhibitor's largest international exhibition partner, as 60 percent of Imax's business now comes from overseas.

Besides adding to its theater count in the world's second-largest movie movie, strong Chinese runs for Hollywood movies, especially 3D titles, has been key to Imax's success.

Imax debuted Gravity in its Chinese theaters on Nov. 20, followed a day later with the second installment in the Hunger Games franchise bowing on its screens.

Gelfond also said at the Bloomberg conference that Western companies can't look to dictate the market in China.

"They consider themselves our equal," Gelfond said. "The CEO or someone very senior has to establish the relationship. You can't open a Chinese office and send your head of China," he added.