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IMAX eyes China Growth

IMAX eyes China Growth
December 15, 2009

Giant-screen movie operator IMAX Corp has revealed that it is in talks with at least five film companies in China as the company moves to cement its presence in Asia.

Greg Foster, Chairman and President of Filmed Entertainment told Reuters in an interview "the US has 300 million people with 35,000 screens. China has 1.3 billion people and 4,000 screens, the opportunity speaks for itself."

In June, IMAX announced a film deal with Huayi Brothers, China's biggest studio, for IMAX's first foreign language film, Aftershock, scheduled for release in 2010.

The Canadian company has 20 theatres in China, and Don Savant, Senior Vice-President and Managing Director, Asia Pacific, said that by 2013, IMAX would have more than 30 theatres in commercial multiplexes in China.

Savant said demand in China remained robust for IMAX theatre tickets, which are typically 50% more expensive than average ticket prices for ordinary cinemas.

"In China, they are willing to pay a 30-100% premium."

Savant added that while IMAX was expanding its presence in second- and third-tier cities, Shanghai and Beijing still offered large opportunities.

Savant continued "there are big areas of the cities that are under-served. We could have six IMAX locations in each city."

IMAX, known for digitally remastering Hollywood blockbusters, posted a third-quarter profit of US$1.1 million compared with a loss of US$2.1 million a year earlier.

IMAX's profit for the whole of 2009 was expected to be $5.2 million, according to Reuters estimates, after it posted full-year losses for the previous two years.

Foster said IMAX's Asian expansion would focus on China, but it was also looking for deals in Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia.

IMAX, which debuted its digital screen technology at the 1970 World Expo in Osaka, has joint venture agreements with Regal Cinemas Inc, a subsidiary of Regal Entertainment Group and AMC Entertainment.

Headquartered in Toronto and New York, IMAX's share price has soared 104% since the start of the year.

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