Imax CEO Plans to Double Theaters in China in Five Years

Imax CEO Plans to Double Theaters in China in Five Years

Imax Corp. Chief Executive Richard Gelfond said he plans to more than double the big-screen theater company’s count in China over the next five years as it expands in the fastest-growing film market in the world. Imax will boost its theaters, which present films in both two-dimensional and three-dimensional formats on large screens with specialized sound systems, to 400 in China from 150 today, Gelfond said.“I feel like I’ve got the wind at my back,” he said, speaking today at The Year Ahead: 2014, a two-day summit hosted by Bloomberg LP in Chicago. “I’m a huge China bull.”

China passed Japan to become the world’s second-largest film market last year, according to the Motion Picture Association of America. Box office sales reached $3 billion through Nov. 19, a 43 percent increase from 2012, according to Rentrak Corp.

Imax, which opened its first theater in China in 2001, signed an agreement with its largest partner there, Wanda Cinema Line Corp., in July to open as many as 120 theaters. The total number of theater screens in China has tripled since 2008, to 13,118 last year, according to EntGroup, a Beijing-based research firm.

China’s leaders have a long-term view and outsiders need to work with them on those goals, Gelfond said. Imax, based in Mississauga, Ontario, has begun distributing Chinese-language movies in the country and exporting them to other countries, he said. That illustrates that “we have a stake not just in our small venture but in their broader agenda.”

The Chinese government’s recent decision to let families have more than one child signals future growth as does a recent crackdown on corruption, Gelfond said.

Strong Brand

Having a strong brand is the best way to protect intellectual property in the country, Gelfond said. Consumers, he said, “want to be seen with their Coach bag, not a roach bag. That’s how you protect yourself.” Chinese courts are also recognizing those property rights, as the company successfully sued a competitor that called itself Dmax for trademark infringement, Gelfond said.

U.S. companies looking to do business in China need to treat the country differently than others, Gelfond said. “They consider themselves our equal,” Gelfond said. “The CEO or someone very senior has to establish the relationship. You can’t open a Chinese office and send your head of China.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Christopher Palmeri in Los Angeles at

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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