IMAX presents its China vision

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IMAX China will collaborate with one or two Chinese directors to work with IMAX cameras and become the first Chinese filmmakers to do so.

Most films screened on IMAX screens in the country are transformed into the format only after shooting is completed.

Just a few Hollywood directors have used IMAX cameras, such as Christopher Nolan for The Dark Knight Rises and JJ Abrams in Star Trek into Darkness, to be released in May.

"The director must be someone who is keen on new technology," comments Chen Jiande, CEO of IMAX China.

Chen did not reveal which directors the company has reached out to but says the news will likely be announced in May or June.

"Not all films are suitable to be shot in the format," he adds. "We prefer epic movies by major directors."

Film technology specialist Jiang Yong anticipates that IMAX is likely to choose Wuershan, the director who created a box office miracle with his fantastic film Painted Skin 2, in 2012. It raked in about 700 million yuan ($112 million).

Wuershan's next work is a tomb raider story, which Jiang believes is suitable for IMAX. In addition, the film's production company, Wanda Cinema, has been the primary partner of IMAX in China, and owns the most IMAX screens (67) in the country.

Hong Kong director Tsui Hark, whose martial arts blockbuster Flying Swords on Dragon Gate hit 15 theaters in the United States in IMAX versions in 2012, is also a possible choice, Jiang adds.

China has become the second largest market for IMAX outside of North America. According to Chen Jiande, the country now boasts 112 IMAX screens, twice the number in 2011.

The company has worked with A-list directors, such as Feng Xiaogang, Wong Kar-wai and Jackie Chan, to transform their films onto screens up to 20 meters tall.

Its latest cooperative venture is with Hong Kong comedy director Stephen Chow, whose Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons, will premiere on Feb 10, Lunar New Year Day.

"We were involved in Journey to the West last year and discussed details of the transformation with Chow before the editing started," Chen says.

The company's ambition in the Chinese market will benefit from the increase in the number of imported films. A deal between China and the United States in February 2012 increases foreign films in Chinese theaters from 20 to 34 annually but stipulates the additional 14 films need to be in 3-D or IMAX.

In 2012, 14 Hollywood films were released in the IMAX format in China, including Ang Lee's Life of Pi, which has an IMAX edition for the Chinese market only. About 20 percent of the film's $90 million gross came from its IMAX version.


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