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IMAX may offer portable cinemas

2010-06-22 10:26

BEIJING - Giant-screen movie technology company IMAX Corp is looking to pump up ticket revenues by opening IMAX Portable Theaters in the country's third- and fourth-tier cities.

"Made with a type of hard plastic, an IMAX Portable Theater is a big structure like a tennis bubble blown up. They can be set up anywhere from the Great Wall to a rural Chinese village," Richard Gelfond, CEO of IMAX Corp, said in an exclusive interview with China Daily.

"It may give our brand more opportunities to run special events for big premieres and also expand our footprint into new locations where they might not have the infrastructure for a traditional theatre."

Currently, there are only 31 multiplex cinemas across China, with each location boasting a population of over 1 million. China, which is IMAX's second-largest market after the United States, still offers many opportunities, said Gelfond.

Each inflatable structure costs more than $1 million to build and it is able to seat around 450 people, equipped with IMAX-standard screens and audio. Gelfond said its first portable theater in China would open in September.

He said he hopes that advertising revenue generated from the giant billboard created on the inside and outside of each structure would help offset the cost of building them. He also plans to seek government assistance in subsidizing entertainment projects in small cities and rural areas.

China is IMAX's fastest-growing market with 23 IMAX cinemas opened to date. The company has plans for more than 50 IMAX theaters by 2012.

In mid-June, IMAX and Wanda Cinema Line Corporation, one of the fastest growing cinema chains in China, announced plans to add three additional IMAX systems in the cities of Quanzhou, Wuhan and Dalian.

Wanda now operates four IMAX cinemas across China.

According to the agreement, Wanda will operate 14 IMAX theatres by the end of 2012.

Gelfond said: "We license our technologies to Chinese film exhibitors, like Wanda, UEM and Stellar, who build the theaters. And they pay us an upfront fee of about $1.3 million per theater as well as royalties. IMAX will keep 3 to 5 percent of the box office receipts."

"IMAX will also help design the theaters and do the marketing work as well as offer content to these exhibitors," he said.

Chinese film exhibitors are keen on getting the rights to show IMAX films, especially after Hollywood blockbuster films like Avatar grossed 160 million yuan ($24 million) total at 14 IMAX cinemas in China, accounting for about 10 percent of the total box office take at IMAX cinemas across the globe.

In cooperation with Huayi Brothers Media Group, Aftershock, a Chinese blockbuster film about the 1976 Tangshan earthquake that killed 300,000 people, is due for release on July 22, and has become the first film that IMAX helped digitally remaster outside the US.

Director Feng Xiaogang said he expects his film to reap about 500 million yuan at the box office.

Gelfond said IMAX will lessen the cost of converting films to the IMAX format.


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