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Imax reaches deal to open more big-screen theaters in China

Partnering with China's largest cinema operator, Imax plans to add 75 theaters in that nation by 2014.

March 25, 2011|By Richard Verrier | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
  • Theater executives in March celebrate a partnership between Imax and Wanda Cinema Line, the largest theater operator in China.
Theater executives in March celebrate a partnership between Imax and Wanda… (Stefen Chow / Bloomberg )

Furthering Hollywood's push into China, Imax Corp., the Canadian-based big-screen theater chain, is expanding its footprint in that country in hopes of cashing in on the nation's rapidly growing film industry.

In a joint venture with China's largest cinema operator, Wanda Cinema Line Corp., Imax plans to open 75 theaters in 25 locations by 2014.

The deal with Wanda represents Imax's first full revenue-sharing agreement in China and brings the total number of Imax theaters slated to open there to 177 over the next several years.

"Imax represents a premium moviegoing experience and is a key component of our development now and in the future," Wanda Cinema Line said in a statement.

Imax also announced the formation of a China-based company to oversee its expansion in that country.

Although China restricts the number of foreign films it allows to be screened in the country to about 20 a year, its theater industry is booming, as The Times recently reported.

During the last four years, the number of screens in China has doubled to more than 6,200 and box office receipts hit a record $1.5 billion last year, according to the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television. China is already considered the world's No. 4 movie market, behind North America, the European Union and Japan.

Imax's China deal represents the largest single international partnership to date for the company, which has been aggressively expanding worldwide in response to growing demand for 3-D screens and high-quality digital cinema. As of Dec. 31, Imax had 518 theaters operating in 46 countries.

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