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China Daily Website

IMAX raises curtain on Chinese productions

Updated: 2012-05-12 09:46
By Liu Wei ( China Daily)

IMAX is thinking big in China.

IMAX raises curtain on Chinese productions

"China has become the second-largest market outside of North America for IMAX," said CEO Richard Gelfond.

As part of its increased cooperation with Chinese filmmakers, the company will release Flying Swords of Dragon Gate, starring Jet Li, in about 30 screens in North America, the first Chinese film to be released there in IMAX 3-D format.

When Avatar hit China in 2010, it was released on only 13 IMAX screens, but now The Avengers is available on 68.

There will be about 100 IMAX screens in China by the end of this year, and another 100 are coming in the next two years, he said.

Box office revenues in China have been increasing at an average 30 percent a year since 2003, reaching 13 billion yuan ($2 billion) in 2011.

The country imports only 20 foreign films for theatrical release a year. But Gelfond is excited about a deal hammered out in February during Vice-President Xi Jinping's visit to the United States. Under the deal, 14 extra films will be imported every year.

"We think this is a positive step forward for Chinese moviegoers," he said.

But the company is still eager to find more content, not only from Hollywood blockbusters, but also local productions.

Company executives have been meeting Chinese directors to learn about their ongoing or finished projects.

The company previously would only convert one or two Chinese films a year, such as Feng Xiaogang's Aftershock about the disastrous Tangshan earthquake, and Hong Kong director Tsui Hark's Flying Swords.

"But in the near future we will work on three to five Chinese films every year," Gelfond said.

The company will provide seminars, workshops and facilities to help Chinese filmmakers better understand what kind of movies are suitable for the format.

It will not only convert completed Chinese films, but also join projects before production starts.

The company is currently in talks with Legendary East, a subsidiary of Legendary Pictures, about using IMAX cameras to shoot Great Wall, a Chinese epic story.

If the deal proceeds, it would be the first Chinese film shot with IMAX cameras, instead of converted to the format after shooting is complete.