Moviemakers aren’t the only ones vying for a piece of China’s booming film market. IMAX has burst into China with its huge screens, going from 22 theaters in 2009 to 240 open or planned today. The mainland is now IMAX’s biggest market after the U.S., where it has 343 theaters.
China figures to become increasingly lucrative for the Canada-based IMAX. In February Beijing raised its limit on foreign films from 20 to 34 a year, and the extra 14 must all be 3-D, animated or IMAX movies. The deal nearly doubles the share of Chinese box-office receipts that movie producers may keep, to 25%, creating a bigger pot for IMAX and other theater chains.
The foundation for IMAX’s China business took years to build, starting in 1998 when Chief Executive Rich Gelfond made the first of his now 35 trips to the mainland. His strategy was to make friends with decision makers—members of state councils, mayors, deputy mayors—and ask: How should we do business in China? Year after year Gelfond would call on officials. Their demands varied from producing Chinese content in the IMAX format and exporting Chinese films to IMAX theaters overseas to opening IMAX theaters in third-tier cities, but he made sure they were met. He moved the company’s Asia headquarters from Singapore to Shanghai in 2002. This year, for the first time in the U.S., IMAX will release a reformatted Chinese movie, The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate. Read the entire article on Forbes website.
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