Behind the Big Screen: Interview with JL Pomeroy, Global CMO, IMAX

With a surge of new premium formats available to moviegoers worldwide, IMAX launches a campaign to distinguish themselves from the pack. BOXOFFICE spoke with IMAX Global CMO JL Pomeroy about the large screen leader, and why the company doesn’t consider itself as part of the Premium Large Format family of offerings. 

IMAX is unveiling a new campaign for exhibitors this year. Can you share the strategy behind the new messaging?

Our objective in the campaign is truly about getting through the clutter of everything that’s happening in the moviegoing business right now. Clearly communicating to consumers what IMAX is, why they should experience a film in IMAX, and driving home the differentiation between IMAX and any other way to see a film. That is the core strategy behind the campaign: to provide clarity in our  messaging, to have a clean strong platform, and to communicate that globally.

Our tagline is “Film to the fullest.” It becomes quite clear when it’s combined with a powerful visual, what that means. You’ll see our beautiful artwork that we’re working on, it translates beautifully to 40+ languages that are represented in our network of 77 countries and 1,400 locations. As you can imagine, that was a big part of our challenge.

You mention the clutter that currently exists for moviegoers when they make the decision of which premium format to choose at the cinema. There’s a growing presence of options, but the messaging and distinction for each of them is becoming increasingly muddled. Why was it important for IMAX to differentiate itself from the pack with this new campaign?

That’s exactly the situation for moviegoers. You show up at a multiplex and there’s so many different messages thrown at you about how you should see a particular film. There are so many different moviegoing experiences just in that one multiplex. What we really want to show–and by the way, this is in partnership and in deep collaboration with our exhibitors–is the ultimate, premium, the most immersive way to experience a film. We want people to have a clear understanding of what that represents. 

At IMAX, we increase our differentiation on many points. It starts with content capture: utilizing IMAX cameras to film a movie from the beginning and collaborating closely with some of the world’s most elite filmmakers is a huge differentiator for us. IMAX is a true, solid brand that’s been around for 50 years. It has deep relationships in the filmmaking community, works in the very earliest stages to capture content, and has a very unique and fully patented process in which we up-res the images people see in those films called IMAX DMR. We also partner with our filmmakers in post-production to enhance and optimize the image, to make sure that it’s exactly how the filmmaker envisions it. Then when you come into the combination of our holistic offering in the theater: the design, projection, sound, and quality–it’s a complete next-generation immersive experience for film buffs. That’s what we want to communicate. Oftentimes, we’re compared with PLF, but in fact we’re a completely different category. There’s absolutely room for PLF, but IMAX is its own animal.

We’ve seen films that embrace the format excel at the box office; last year with Dunkirk, this year with Avengers: Infinity War. What other movies with are coming up in the pipeline? 

This year has been incredible with Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War, and we have some really exciting titles coming up for the remainder of 2018, the first of which is Ant-Man and the Wasp. That’s going to be the vehicle that we launch our brand campaign on, so we’re very excited about it. Then we have titles like Venom and Mission: Impossible Fallout coming later this year.

We’re also very excited about First Man, which gives us a unique opportunity to showcase our true IMAX core heritage and our relationship with NASA. We did some really special work around that film, showcasing just how important the IMAX capturing shooting process was for Damien Chazelle in bringing it to the screen.

Coming up in 2019, there a couple of titles that I can share with you that we know so far (there will be many more ), Wonder Woman 1984; the Avengers sequel, which will be fully filmed with IMAX cameras; and Lion King, which many people are expecting to be a big hit. 

All these titles have global appeal. You recently opened your first IMAX screen in Saudi Arabia, what does that market mean for the company moving forward? 

With Saudi Arabia, there’s still a lot of unknown variables in play. As far as our overall strategy, IMAX has shown itself to be a tremendous leader in emerging markets. We are looking at approximately 15 to 20 theaters over the next few years in Saudi Arabia. We have a four theater deal that’s signed with our partner in that region, Vox. We also have an MOU signed with the General Culture Authority, which gives us some great leverage to continue the conversations about our expanding further in the region. 

AMC has just announced the launch of their own subscription service, AMC Stubs A-List, which will allow members to access premium screenings at IMAX auditoriums. How do you think this development will impact the company?

It’s an interesting landscape that we’re all working in; we have a bit of an unknown variable here domestically. We’re really excited about the partnerships with our friends at AMC, the depth and breadth of our partnership is well-known across the industry. From AMC’s perspective, IMAX is a strong brand differentiator that helps drive interest to their programs. To offer IMAX as an in their service, where you can see up to three IMAX films per week as a part of their A-List subscription, that’s pretty exciting for moviegoers.

If you got on an airplane, would you walk past first class and say, “No, I’m not interested in sitting there. I’m going to walk back to coach and take that seat instead.” Giving consumers the choice to see a movie in IMAX is a huge increase in value. They get to experience the very best of the best without an upcharge, given the financial structure between AMC and studios supporting that IMAX differentiation. We believe it gives us an overly strong opportunity to introduce a new group of filmgoers to the IMAX experience. We know once we get them hooked, they’re going to keep coming back.

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