Large screen cinema specialist IMAX says that last year it equipped a further 136 new theatres around the world, and growing the number of IMAX-equipped screens by 20 per cent. It will expand by a greater number this year. IMAX also said that it is investing with Discovery Communications and a joint documentary film fund.
IMAX has seen the number of Japanese screens grow from 15 screens just two years ago, and now number “close to 40”.
IMAX revenues were also at record levels, up 29 per cent on 2014 at $374 million. Last year also saw IMAX spin-off its Chinese screens into a local joint venture (with Wanda, and where IMAX owns 68.5 per cent of the company) and that business is separately listed and now has a value in excess of $2 billion.
“To sum it up, with over 1000 theatres now in our global network, and a global cinema industry that is pumping out more blockbusters than ever before, IMAX couldn’t be better positioned for what lies ahead,” said CEO Richard Gelfond, speaking on an analysts call this week.
“Our China box office grew 54 per cent overall versus China box office growing 49 per cent highlighting that the cinema business is alive and well in that region. And finally, our rest of the world box office grew 13 per cent versus flat growth overall for the industry,” added Gelfond.
“With TV technology becoming so advanced and with Netflix and Amazon becoming such efficient distributors of film and television content, albeit often on a delayed basis, studios understand that big blockbuster movies are the best way to get consumers out of their homes and into the cinema.”
Gelfond explained that the release of Star Wars accounted for one-third of the advanced ticket sales in the US despite only accounting for 2 per cent of screens. “Star Wars also broke the IMAX global opening weekend record with total box office of $48 million besting the previous record held by Jurassic World, which has done $44 million in its opening weekend earlier in 2015. All-in-all, we couldn’t be happier with how Star Wars performed at IMAX, and are even more excited that there are four more Star Wars films to come.”
He said that 2016 was also starting well, helped by a slew of high-profile releases. “[We] estimate we will install another 135-140 additional theatres by the year end.”
IMAX ended 2015 with cash in hand of $317 million (of which $92 million is held by its Chinese operation).