Imax Sees Continued Growth in China

Company CEO Richard Gelfond predicted more signings after a recent 210-theater deal with Wanda -- just no more blockbuster agreements anytime soon.

OTTAWA -- Imax is experiencing continued growth for its fast-expanding theater network in China. The giant-screen exhibitor recently expanded its contract with China's largest theatrical chain, Wanda Cinema Line Corp., so don't expect more blockbuster deals anytime soon.

"I don't think you're going to see another 120-theater deal like we had with Wanda. That's not going to happen," Imax CEO Richard Gelfond told analysts Thursday after the release of his company's fourth-quarter results.

But he predicted continued theater signings in China after Imax inked a deal with Wanda to build 210 large-format theaters in the country by 2021.

Imax also signed last year with South Korea's CJ CGV to build 30 more Imax movie screens in China and five in South Korea.

Gelfond talked about recent changes in state film policy in China, where the Film Bureau in Beijing looks set to raise the quota of foreign movies allowed into China by 10, bringing the total to 44.

He said a number of veterans at the China Film Group were recently replaced by younger execs.

"They have experience with Imax and over time will continue the positive momentum we've seen," Gelfond said.

The Imax topper added his company has seen the last 10 films it chose for release in the Chinese market be granted market entry.

Gelfond added that may change as Chinese authorities at some point deny an Imax title, and the market should not be surprised by such a development.

Imax has also been impacted by a lawsuit with a Chinese competitor, China Film Giant Screen, which has a former Imax employee that allegedly brought his new employer stolen IP related to film conversions to 3D.