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Imax strikes 75-theater joint venture in China

March 24, 2011 | 10:59 am

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

In a joint venture with China's largest cinema operator, Wanda Cinema Line Corp., Imax plans to open 75 new 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 in China over the next several years to 177.

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

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

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

Over 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 only 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 demand for 3-D screens and high-quality digital cinema. As of Dec. 31, Imax had 518 theaters operating in 46 countries.

-- Richard Verrier

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