Hong Kong company reporting season

Coming soon: IMAX to screen more Chinese films as it looks to maximise box office takings

Company hauled record collections from Detective China Town 2, Monster Hunt 2 and Operation Red Sea during the Lunar New Year holiday

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 February, 2018, 4:05pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 February, 2018, 4:05pm

IMAX China, the provider of IMAX theatre systems for cinemas in Greater China, says it expects more Chinese productions to make up for this year’s total film screenings in the mainland.

While Hollywood films had been a “pillar of our programming strategy”, Chinese productions are increasingly accounting for a bigger volume, according to chief financial officer Jim Athanasopoulos.

“Based on the quality of the films coming out right now … the table’s been set,” said Athanasopoulos, without elaborating on how much more Chinese content would be screened this year.

The company, which reported a 22 per cent jump in profit to a record US$45.9 million on Wednesday, said 75 per cent of the content screened in IMAX theatres last year was from Hollywood and 25 per cent was Chinese films.

“It’s about managing to get the best films to our screens to maximise box office for our customers,” he said.

IMAX China reported record opening box office during the recent Lunar New Year holiday, driven by the strong performance of Chinese language films – Detective China Town 2, Monster Hunt 2 and Operation Red Sea.

The films grossed a combined US$18 million over a four-day period from February 16, representing a 60 per cent rise from the year-earlier period.

IMAX China profits tumble 13pc amid box-office slump

The company reported a decline in Greater China box office collections last year to US$291 million, against US$296 million in 2016 and US$312.4 million in 2015.

The increasing popularity of Chinese films underlines rapidly changing consumer tastes and spending patterns in the mainland, and also the quality of these productions and the reception towards them.

Athanasopoulos stressed that Chinese consumers were still going to the theatres but they want to be sure the content was right.

IMAX generates revenue by providing theatre systems to cinema operators either through sales or a revenue-sharing arrangement in return for fees based on a percentage of the film’s earnings.

The pace of theatre installation in Greater China last year slowed to 0.84 per cent, compared with a previous 54 per cent, bringing the total number to 120. IMAX expects to install about 105 new theatres this year. There are currently 524 commercial theatres, and a further 309 in the backlog.

IMAX China generated US$126.4 million in revenue for 2017, up 6.7 per cent from the previous year.

Athanasopoulos said the company would also strengthen its foothold in the Chinese language market through its China Film Fund, which was set up in 2015.

He conceded that the fund had a slow take off but would be making investments in Chinese language films soon.