IMAX Entertainment CEO Greg Foster on Bucking Downward Box Office Trend: ‘We Had to Change Our Business Model’
Jan 16, 2015

“We cracked the code on the film side,” the executive tells TheWrap in this week’s “Office with a View”

While movie going is in spiral, one corner of Hollywood’s box office landscape is defying the downturn: IMAX.

In the face of overall revenues last year of just $10.3 billion, a five percent dip from 2013, the colossally-screened exhibitor has seen exponential growth. In 2008, IMAX introduced “The Dark Knight” to 147 theaters. Four years later, IMAX splashed “The Dark Knight Rises” in 600 theaters.

Today, IMAX plays on more than 800 screens in 60 countries. And while IMAX’s earnings won’t be made public until February, the company has already logged its third commercial film to cross the nine-digit mark: “Interstellar,” Chris Nolan‘s sci-fi opus, took $185 million — more than $100 million of it in IMAX.

In our latest installment of Office with a View, Greg Foster, senior executive vice president and CEO of IMAX Entertainment, spoke with TheWrap about why, at the box office at least, size matters:

TheWrap: Box office took a beating last year, though your numbers continue to rise. What’s the secret?
Greg Foster: It was a good year. Not a great year, but a good one. We had some big movies, particularly in the second half of the year. “Transformers” was very strong in China. “Guardians of the Galaxy” was strong everywhere. I’ve run out of ways to describe how excited we were about being a part of “Interstellar” (much of it shot on IMAX cameras). And if you look at “The Hobbit,” it doubled the box office of every movie over the Christmas season.

“Guardians” was something of a risk and surprise.
That movie solidified rapport with Marvel and Disney. In early July, we showed 17 minutes exclusively in IMAX, free during the week, to give people a feel for the movie. When you look at tracking, that word of mouth really began kicking in then. It was a bit unknown at the time, and we unleashed the characters. We signed up (to carry the film) quite far in advance, so we had a chance to be integrated in the marketing campaign that contributed to the success of the movie.

What’s been the key to growth?
We cracked the code on the film side. Before, we couldn’t get enough movies because we didn’t have enough theaters. And we couldn’t get more theaters, because we didn’t have enough movies. So we had to change our business model.

To read more of IMAX CEO Greg Foster's interview visit TheWrap.