Imax projects bright picture of China cinemas

Film technology leader Imax Corp, which witnessed a box-office boom in the first half of this year, said it will double down on its operations in the Chinese market.

Jim Athanasopoulos, chief financial officer of Imax China, said: “We are continuing to push the envelope, differentiating our (film screening) experience, and to offer consumers something different.

“A growing number of Chinese consumers are seeking premium film-watching experiences, and we are working to deliver quality and differentiated content-things Chinese audiences want to see and enjoy … and we see that continuing in the future.”

To date, Imax has introduced some of its advanced technologies, including Imax Film Camera, Aiexa Imax Camera, and Imax with Laser, in China.

According to the company, an increasing number of Chinese filmmakers are using Aiexa Imax Camera. It is a two-dimensional digital camera with a high level of digital image capture and playback, producing lifelike images defined by enhanced clarity, details, colors and a higher dynamic range for contrast.

The upcoming Detective Chinatown, which will be released during the Spring Festival peak movie-going season, was shot entirely with Aiexa Imax Camera, Imax China said.

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Imax with laser is a laser projection system with 5.1 or 12.1 channel sound system. The technology is designed to offer an immersive cinematic experience with Imax’s big screen to moviegoers.

“We are continuing to roll out our theaters. We give guidance to around 90 percent of new theaters this year,” Athanasopoulos said.

“We saw strong demand (for technologies) in (shooting and screening) blockbusters, not only those (from) Hollywood but films in Chinese language, which are increasingly welcomed by Chinese audiences.”

His remarks follow Imax China’s strong box-office performance in a sluggish market.

Imax theaters earned $236 million in ticket sales on the Chinese mainland in the first half of this year, up 24 percent year-on-year.

While China’s overall market sales were lower than expected, data from the National Radio and Television Administration showed box-office receipts were 31.17 billion yuan ($4.46 billion), down 2.7 percent year-on-year.

“The contrast shows audience’s growing interest in quality content and enhanced watching experience, despite China’s box-office receipts and total cinema visits both dropping in the first six months of this year, a possible result of consumers’ weakening spending,” said Wang Yi, a senior analyst from the Maoyan Research Institute, which tracks box-office trade.

Despite the market downturn, Athanasopoulos said Imax China will continue to focus on expanding in the Chinese market.

Imax China has partnered with South Korean cinema chain company CJ CGV Co Ltd to open up to 40 new Imax theaters featuring Imax with laser projection systems in July.

Till Sept, Imax has 666 commercial theaters in China.

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