IMAX to Expand in Asia
By The Wall Street Journal: Jeyup S. Kwaak on July 15, 2013
SEOUL—IMAX Corp. and its South Korean partner plan to add 30 IMAX movie screens in China and five in South Korea.
The expansion, to be announced in coming days, is aimed at capitalizing on rising entertainment spending by the Chinese middle class and demand for the immersive high-resolution technology in Korea, IMAX Chief Executive Richard Gelfond said.
The project is a joint venture with the overseas business arm of South Korea's largest theater chain, CJ CGV Co.
The deal will bring the number of IMAX screens scheduled for construction in China to 140 and in South Korea to 10. There were 118 IMAX screens in operation in China and 12 in South Korea at the end of March.
"What IMAX is doing is following the audience around the world," Mr. Gelfond said.
China is the world's second-largest movie market by box-office revenue, behind the U.S., and the number of screens in China is expected to eclipse that of North America by 2020, according to Ernst & Young.
In a boost to IMAX, the Chinese government last year eased restrictions on foreign movies to allow the release of 14 additional enhanced-format foreign films, such as 3-D and IMAX, beyond the previous limit of 20 films a year.
Since 2010, 10 Chinese features have been released on IMAX. Three have opened in theaters this year, including the fantasy-epic "Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons," which became one of the highest-grossing domestic releases in Chinese history. Four more IMAX releases are planned, the Canada-based company said.
Unlike in more mature Western markets, where some moviegoers resist the higher price for IMAX films, the Chinese audience is used to choosing between different cinema experiences, Mr. Gelfond said. A movie ticket in China can range from $3 to $16, with IMAX screens at the top of the scale.
"We are building on our success with IMAX, which continues to generate incremental attendance and revenue to our complexes," said CJ CGV Chief Executive Seo Jung. Read more on The Wall Street Journal's website.