'Iron Man 3' Opens Strong for Imax in International Markets

Iron Man 3 Robert Downey Jr Poster Art - P 2013

Iron Man 3 Robert Downey Jr Poster Art - P 2013

The May 3 release of Marvel's superhero tentpole can't come soon enough as Hollywood titles misfired in the Chinese market during the first quarter of 2013.

TORONTO – The day-date May 3 release of Iron Man 3 in China can't come soon enough for Imax.

Never mind the prickly negotiations between Walt Disney and North American exhibitors over the domestic opening of Marvel Studio's superhero tentpole on May 3.

Imax on Thursday cheered the midnight release in 30 international markets for Iron Man 3, which broke records in certain territories with an overall opening day $15,000 per-screen average.

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“That’s a very strong number for us. We set a number of records for any Imax release,” Richard Gelfond, CEO of Imax, told analysts Thursday after his company posted its first quarter results.

Gelfond said the tense battle between Disney and theater owners over terms is predictable, given Iron Man 3 is expected to open strongly.

“For big movies for this, that’s not unusual. The movie has excellent reviews,” he said.

Imax is anticipating big box office for Iron Man 3 in China after Hollywood films did less well for the giant screen exhibitor in that market during the latest quarter.

Under-performance by Hollywood titles in early 2013 was offset by better-than-expected box office for local Chinese language films on Imax screens.

The snag in part were Hollywood films like Skyfall and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey having release dates in China that lagged far behind their North American premiere.

Piracy meant many Chinese theater-goers had already seen the films by the time they made it to the local multiplex.

Other Hollywood titles lacked franchise awareness, Gelfond added, including Oz The Great and Powerful.

“People didn’t know what Oz was, even though it was closer to the North American release date,” he reported.

Gelfond pointed to better second quarter momentum for Hollywood titles in China on Imax screens, with G.I. Joe: Retaliation contributing $3.5 million in box office over the first ten days on release.

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Besides Iron Man 3, Imax will also tee-up Oblivion and the latest Star Trek franchise installment for release on its screens in China as it continues to bet heavily on strong runs for Hollywood titles in the fast-expanding Chinese market.

Imax has also hedged on that China wager by releasing more local films on its screens in that market, especially during black-out periods for Hollywood titles.

Gelfond pointed to a trio of unnamed Chinese titles that are expected to play on its screen in that market later this year.