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Viewers in an Imax theatre in Chattanooga, Tenn., wear polarizing glasses. (John Coniglio/The Associated Press)
Viewers in an Imax theatre in Chattanooga, Tenn., wear polarizing glasses. (John Coniglio/The Associated Press)


Imax bets on China growth Add to ...

Giant-screen movie operator Imax Corp. said on Tuesday that it was in talks with at least five film companies in China as the company moves to cement its presence in Asia.

"The U.S. has 300 million people with 35,000 screens. China has 1.3 billion people and 4,000 screens, the opportunity speaks for itself," chairman and president of filmed entertainment Greg Foster told Reuters in an interview.

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.

He said demand in China remained robust for Imax theatre tickets, which are typically 50 per cent more expensive than average ticket prices for ordinary cinemas.

"In China they are willing to pay a 30-100 per cent premium," Mr. Savant said. He added that while Imax was expanding its presence in second- and third-tier cities, Shanghai and Beijing still offered large opportunities.

"There are big areas of the cities that are underserved. We could have six Imax locations in each city," he said.

Imax, known for digitally remastering Hollywood blockbusters, posted a third-quarter profit of $1.1-million compared with a loss of $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.

Mr. 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 per cent since the start of the year. Imax's shares closed 0.3 per cent higher on the Nasdaq and Toronto stock exchanges on Monday.

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