Imax, Wanda Sign 20-Theater Deal as Cinemas in China Are Set to Reopen

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Imax

The agreement comes just ahead of the July 20 reopening of movie theaters in the second-largest box office market.

As cinemas in China look to reopen on Monday amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, Imax Corp. has signed a 20-theater deal with Chinese industry giant Wanda Film Co. to expand their longstanding agreement.

The latest sales deal by Imax China, unveiled on Thursday, will see Wanda outfit 10 of its large-format screens with laser projection technology, including at multiplexes in Beijing and Shanghai. In addition, Wanda will set up another 10 new Imax theaters at locations across China.

The latest agreement, financial terms of which weren't disclosed, brings to 378 the number of Imax screens that Wanda is slated to have in its expanding circuit in China. Cinemas in China, the world's second-biggest theatrical film market, have an official green light to resume business beginning Monday, July 20, though not all theaters will turn their lights on immediately.

Imax generates around one third of its worldwide box office from China. "Imax will be critical in welcoming audiences back to theaters and offering the best possible cinematic experience well into future, as we continue to grow our long, successful partnership," said Liu Xiaobin, executive president of Wanda Film.

On Thursday, B. Riley analyst Eric Wold in an investors note argued Imax seeing its theaters relaunch in China represented a "key step" in the giant screen exhibitor resuming operations in the rest of the world and upcoming tentpoles from the major studios getting a theatrical release.

"We view this as a positive indicator that safety protocols can be put into place to restart the industry in China as well as other countries -- even with the U.S. seemingly going in the wrong direction recently," Wold argued.

Movie theaters in China have been shuttered since Jan. 23 amid the pandemic, with the nearly half-year closure putting many studios and exhibition companies under severe financial strain.