IMAX welcomes audiences back to theaters in China

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, July 24, 2020
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Logos of IMAX and Wanda Cinema outside a theater in Qingdao, Shandong province. [File photo/VCG]

Giant screen theatrical experience provider IMAX welcomes audiences back to theaters in China after six months of closures, and there's no better way to celebrate than with the opening of a major international film festival. The 23rd Shanghai International Film Festival will open on July 25, and there will be an IMAX section in the festival's International Film Panorama. The section will screen 10 IMAX films in Shanghai, including all eight installments of the Harry Potter franchise and two documentaries: "Pandas" featuring narratives from actress Li Bingbing and "Michael Jordan to the Max."

Just four days before China could reopen cinemas in low-risk areas on July 20, Wanda Film Co., IMAX and IMAX China expanded their longstanding partnership with a 20-theater agreement. According to the deal, Wanda will upgrade to cutting-edge IMAX with Laser technology at 10 of its top-grossing IMAX locations and install 10 IMAX systems at new locations throughout the country. 

"IMAX is proud to be part of the premium offering that has made Wanda one of the most successful and beloved cinemas across China," said IMAX China CEO Edwin Tan. "With this agreement, Wanda Film is further cementing its confidence in IMAX as the flagship offering for its top locations and a key partner as it prepares to reopen its vast network of theaters throughout China."

Under the agreement, 10 top-grossing Wanda IMAX theaters in first and second tier cities -- including Beijing CBD Wanda IMAX and Shanghai Wujiaochang Wanda IMAX -- will be upgraded to IMAX with Laser, the brand's most advanced theater experience. These theaters will shift from a sales model to a recurring revenue-sharing model, allowing for optimized financial performance.

"Through the past few years, Wanda Film has been continuing to introduce and promote high-quality projection technology in the market. We are committed to presenting the ultimate movie experience for moviegoers," Liu Xiaobin, executive president of Wanda Film, said. "IMAX will be critical in welcoming audiences back to theaters and offering the best possible cinematic experience well into the future as we continue to grow our long, successful partnership."

Wanda and IMAX's partnership dates back over a decade with several major, multi-theater deals over the last several years. With this agreement, a total of 378 IMAX screens in China will now be in Wanda theaters across all tiered cities. In 2019, the box office of Wanda Cinemas was 9.87 billion yuan, and the core indicators, such as box office, attendance and market share, ranked No.1 in China for 11 consecutive years.

In 2019, IMAX broke several records in China, including the Chinese New Year box office, record local language box office and an all-time high full year box office of $365.8 million in Greater China. The agreement underscores the value of The IMAX Experience to the impending reopening and long-term future of the Chinese exhibition industry, further demonstrates the importance of The IMAX Experience and brand to the nation's largest exhibitor, and expands IMAX's footprint to 985 screens in China overall, including backlogs.

Following the reopening of cinemas in China, both older releases and new releases will warm up the freezing cold market. New Hollywood productions will hit the Chinese market this weekend. These include Dave Wilson's "Bloodshot" starring Vin Diesel and Stephen Gaghan's "Dolittle" featuring Robert Downey Jr., both of which have IMAX versions.

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