Imax VP on its international expansion and the importance of local-language films

Imax VP on the brand's international expansion, local-language films and laser experience / IMAX

Imax is continuously expanding in international markets, particularly in European countries such as Germany and France, China, as well as India, where Imax has nearly doubled its network in the past year.

Additionally, Imax has opened its first commercial theatre in Saudi Arabia last week and is looking to expand in the Kingdom, which recently lifted its 35-year cinema ban.

According to John Schreiner, Imax’s senior vice president, theatre development for Russia, CIS, Middle East, and India, international markets have been a key growth driver for Imax with roughly two thirds of its revenues now coming from overseas.

He says: "In Europe, Imax has seen significant growth over the past decade – going from only 16 commercial theatres in 7 European countries to more than 188 theatres open and an additional 69 in backlog across 29 countries today. We believe this growth has been fueled by a growing shift among European moviegoers towards premium cinema, as well as our success in penetrating core, strategic territories – particularly in Western Europe, which represent a huge growth opportunity for Imax."

China has become Imax's largest market in terms of theatre count. Imax has been focused on presenting local-language films in China as part of its marketing strategy. Imax recently signed a 30-theatre agreement with JinYi in China as well.

When asked about the current state of the cinema industry including current trends such as dynamic ticket pricing and subscription services, Schreiner says: "It is an exciting time for the cinema industry – particularly for our business. There is a robust lineup of blockbuster films in 2018 as well as in the years to come and a continued demand for more premium cinema experiences occurring on a worldwide basis.

In terms of theatrical film releases, there has been a clear industry shift in Hollywood towards more blockbuster, event-driven films. These are the types of films that cannot be appreciated on a small screen or in the home and are exactly in our sweet spot given the immersive experience Imax delivers.

"We also believe innovation is key to continue to get audiences off their couches and into the theatre and as we celebrate our 50th anniversary this year we have never been more committed to that effort. In fact, we just announced the launch of our next-generation Imax with laser experience."

Meanwhile, Imax's marketing strategy in India has been implemented across three main channels which is to leverage its multiplex partners’ channels and in-theatre marketing at Imax locations, social media and collaborating with third party partners such as independent ticket booking websites and studios.

Imax and Inox recently announced an agreement for five new Imax theatres, which brings Imax's total number of contracted theatres in India to 40, with 15 currently open and 25 contracted to open. Imax also recently tied up with Yash Raj Films to screen to be released 'Thugs of Hindustan' worldwide.

As to what is the strategy behind such partnerships, Schreiner says: “While our film slate is comprised mainly of Hollywood blockbusters, in countries such as China, Russia and India, where there is a robust filmmaking community and a strong consumer appetite for local content, we’ve been increasingly working with leading filmmakers in these markets to present their films in Imax."

In particular, he said is the number one market for film production and the third-largest box office in the world. "When we first entered India we knew that becoming part of the filmmaking community was going to be an important and strategic step as we look to expand our network," he adds.

"We are very excited about Thugs of Hindustan, starring Amitabh Bachchan and Aamir Khan, which will mark our fifth Indian title. Not only have Indian films broken box office records in Imax theatres across India, but we’ve had great success exporting films such as Padmaavat and Baahubali 2: The Conclusion to other Imax markets such as the U.S., China the Middle East and Europe where the performance has been phenomenal. Imax is unique in being a global platform. We take great pride in our relationships with filmmakers collaborating to present films in the most immersive way as well as expanding their reach to new audiences around the world."

Get The Drum Newsletter

Build your marketing knowledge by choosing from daily news bulletins or a weekly special.