SHANGHAI, Aug. 2, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — IMAX Corp. (NYSE: IMAX) and IMAX China Holding, Inc. (HKSE: 1970) today announced IMAX’s largest new theatre deal ever – 150 additional theatres with Wanda Cinema Line Corp (002739.SZ). Under the agreement, the theatres will be built throughout China over six years, starting next year, with 110 of these theatres scheduled to be installed by 2020.
This agreement builds on a partnership that dates to 2007, when Wanda Cinema opened its first IMAX theatre in Dongguan, China. Wanda Cinema, the exhibition subsidiary of Dalian Wanda Group, currently operates more than 160 IMAX theatres and is Asia’s largest cinema owner.
Today’s deal is expected to expand Wanda Cinema’s footprint of IMAX theatres by more than 70 percent, to 360, with the majority opening over the next three years and the full rollout to be concluded by 2022. With this agreement, IMAX China’s total backlog will increase nearly 60 percent. This deal is in addition to a 2013 agreement between the companies under which Wanda committed to deploy 120 new theatres by 2020. Wanda now expects to virtually complete this deployment by the end of 2016, four years earlier than originally anticipated. Nearly half of Wanda’s new IMAX theatres may be outfitted with new laser-projection technology, commencing at the end of 2018. The key deal terms are substantially similar to those under the 2013 agreement.
“This is a landmark development in IMAX’s history and a strategic linchpin in our growth strategy, particularly as we’ve seen over time that signings lead to installs, higher box office and ultimately more revenue,” said IMAX CEO Richard L. Gelfond. “It not only strengthens our market-leading position in China, the world’s fastest-growing film market, but also reinforces our strong working relationship with Wanda Cinema, one of our most important business partners, and speaks to the value Wanda places on the IMAX business. Wanda’s significant commitment also illustrates how our decade-long relationship has evolved well beyond its origins in one-time system sales. Wanda and IMAX now operate under a more sustainable revenue-sharing model that opens new opportunities to jointly release critically acclaimed local-language films and share box office revenue.”
Since 2013, IMAX and Wanda have collaborated on a number of Mandarin-language box-office hits, including Man of Tai Chi, Go Away Mr. Tumor and last year’s Mojin: The Lost Legend, the highest-grossing local-language film ever released by IMAX.
“We cannot overstate the strategic importance of our IMAX relationship,” said John Zeng, President of Wanda Cinema Line. “Our partnership has been instrumental to Wanda’s tremendous growth and our track record as China’sbox-office market leader for seven years running. Our business model is predicated on creating a differentiated movie experience. By combining Wanda’s premier theatre environment and IMAX’s advanced cinematic technologies, we’re able to deliver the most immersive and compelling filmed entertainment experience anywhere in China. We look forward to leveraging this successful model for years to come, partnering with IMAX to foster the incredible expansion of China’s film industry and bring even more blockbuster films to Chinese moviegoers.”
Zeng pointed to the IMAX-Wanda partnership as playing a key role in the blockbuster release of Warcraft, which opened in June to record crowds, fast becoming a Chinese cultural phenomenon. The film was produced and distributed by Legendary Entertainment (LENT), a Wanda Group company. Warcraft smashed IMAX China’s first-day box-office record, generating 35 million yuan ($5.3 million) in ticket sales, while also setting new company benchmarks for midnight and presale box-office records.
With today’s deal, IMAX’s total number of theatre signings year to date has reached 284, including 229 in China, eclipsing the company’s previous annual global record of 277. China generates about a third of IMAX’s global box-office sales.
As of June 30, 2016, IMAX’s theatre network in China totaled 335 theatres, up from 250 at the same point in 2015. Despite significant network growth and expansion into more than 100 different cities in China, IMAX’s per-screen averages have been stable at $1.2 million to $1.3 million for the past four years.
Earlier this year, IMAX announced plans to digitally re-master four high-profile Chinese titles for release this summer in China, including Wanda Media’s For a Few Bullets; Edko Films’ Cold War 2, starring Chow Yun-fat; Skiptrace starring Jackie Chan (Chan’s fourth film to be released in IMAX); and the 3D adventure film Time Raiders, directed by Daniel Lee and jointly produced by Le Vision Pictures and Shanghai Film Group. The company also plans to release The Great Wall, starring Matt Damon and directed by Zhang Yimou and is in discussions with potential partners on pending releases, including Journey to the West II.
“The Chinese market is a fast-growing market with an audience that is increasingly discerning about technology and their in-theater experience,” said Zhang. “As a filmmaker, I strive to provide fans with the best possible experience and I am very excited to present my new film The Great Wall in IMAX’s format and growing network of theatres.”
IMAX plans to increase the number of local-language films and expects to release anywhere from eight to 10 local-language films in China in 2016, counting the previous releases of Monkey King 2 and Kung Fu Panda 3. Hollywood titles on IMAX China’s film slate for the remainder of the year include Star Trek Beyond, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Jason Bourne and Doctor Strange. Separately, IMAX China (IMXCF) and China Media Capital established a movie production fund to co-finance a slate of 15 Chinese language films over the next three years.
In addition to Wanda Cinema Line, Wanda Group owns AMC Theatres, IMAX’s first North American commercial exhibition partner and the world’s largest operator of IMAX theatres. AMC, with a market commitment of 185 IMAX theatres, is the largest IMAX exhibitor in North America.
About Wanda Cinema Line
Established in 2005, Wanda Cinema Line Corporation Limited is a subsidiary of Wanda Group. As of June 30, 2016, Wanda Cinemas was operating 320 theatres in nearly 120 cities in China as well as major cities in Australia and New Zealand, with 2,789 total screens. Wanda Cinemas accounted for approximately 14% of China’s market share in terms of box office revenue, ranking No. 1 in the China market for the seventh consecutive year. In 2015, Wanda Cinemas grossed 6.3 billion yuan in box office revenue.
With “prioritizing audience value and their moviegoing experience” as its business philosophy, over the years, Wanda Cinema Line strives to provide high-standard design and construction, high-class exhibition technologies, and high-quality standardized services, offering the cinema environment of choice for more than 60 million Wanda fan club members. In 2015, Wanda Cinema Line officially announced its “membership+” strategy, aiming at building a world-leading cinema lifestyle ecosystem, marking its transformation from a cinema chain to a technology, platform and ecosystem-based company.
For more information, please visit www.wandacinemas.com.