IMAX digs in for its market share in China

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The Independent Culture

In China at least it seems IMAX will most definitely not be going quietly into the night.

While countless column centimeters in the international and local press have been lauding the arrival of the "3D revolution'' and the onset of digital-friendly cinemas in both China and elsewhere, IMAX Corp has been busy making plans of its own.

China has in the past two years become IMAX's fastest-growing market and the country now boats 23 IMAX cinemas, with plans for more than 50 by 2012.

And this week IMAX Corp has announced plans to increase its market share in mainland China by dispatching IMAX Portable Theaters to the country's smaller cities.

"They can be set up anywhere from the Great Wall to a rural Chinese village,'' Richard Gelfond, CEO of IMAX Corp, told the China Daily newspaper.

It might well be a winning move. China's box office takings last year soared past US$909 million (740 million euros), a rise of 44 percent year on year, and the nation welcomed 600 new cinema screens along the way.
The most recent versions of the IMAX come 3D ready, too, with just a little remastering needed before the film is ready to roll.

Heavyweight Chinese director Feng Xiaogang is known as the king of Chinese box office thanks to a string of hits - including the comedy Cell Phone, the war drama Assembly - and he has immediately turned to IMAX for his next production.

Feng's Aftershock - centered around the Tangshan earthquake which in 1976 claimed more than 240,000 lives - will become the first Chinese production to be simultaneously released in IMAX format when it hits screens on July 22.

The charismatic director has been bold in his predictions for the film, too, claiming he was sure it would collect more than 500 million yuan (60 million euros) from the Chinese box office.

His IMAX screening could well help him achieve that goal - IMAX screenings of James Cameron's Avatar accounted for some 160 million yuan (19 million euros) from 14 IMAX cinemas in China, out of the film's total collect of 1.3 billion yuan (227 million euros).

MS

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