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Imax closes biggest expansion deal since 2019 in China

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Source: IMAX Corp

IMAX

Imax is to open 20 new theatres in China, marking the biggest single expansion for the large-screen exhibitor in four years.

The exhibitor will build on its partnership with China’s Hengdian Films, which already operates seven theatres with Imax across the country, to open the new cinemas.

Imax CEO Rich Gelfond said of the deal: “Thanks to its robust mix of local language and Hollywood content, China continues to see a rapid recovery in moviegoing post-Covid and, as we are seeing in markets around the world, a rebound at the box office is often followed by network growth for Imax.”

The Chinese box office is approaching the $7bn mark in 2023 to date, just 10% behind the same time in pre-pandemic 2019. Imax China has delivered its highest grossing summer season ever at the box office, earning more than $18.4m to date with Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer. The new Imax with laser systems will be located in Jingdezhen and Ulanqab, which are all first-time Imax sites in China. Further locations are set to open in Hangzhou, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Jiujiang, Hohhot and Yangzhou, with more to be confirmed.Xu Tianfu, chairman of Hengdian Films, said: “This year has been pivotal for the industry’s revival… This agreement represents a significant step forward in our strategy of developing cinematic multiplex locations and reflects our unwavering confidence in China’s film market.”

Hengdian Films focuses on investment, production, distribution and exhibition, and has been in partnership with Imax since 2015.

Toronto-based Imax has more than 1,700 screens in 87 territories. It has around 770 branded commercial locations in China, the most of any market worldwide.[with Imax]Earlier this week, Imax announced an expansion in Malaysia with partner Golden Screen Cinemas to open six Imax with Laser systems across five locations, including Aurum TRX in Kuala Lumpur.

However, the big-screen exhibitor suffered a setback in China earlier this month when a proposed $124m deal to acquire the 28.5% stake in its Shanghai-based Imax China unit that it does not already own was voted down by shareholders.

At that time, Gelford said: “While disappointing, the vote demonstrates that shareholders believe, as we do, that the future of Imax China is bright. We are committed to our business in China and our team will continue to create new growth opportunities for the Imax brand and technology in this vital market for blockbuster entertainment.”

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