Big plans at Imax

Ambitious sked ahead as 2nd qtr. profit up

TORONTO — Large-format pioneer Imax Corp. has put film development on the front burner and plans an ambitious release schedule over the next 18 months.

Chairman Bradley Wechsler told financial analysts Thursday that the Toronto-based company expects to have five new Imax films on screens before the end of 1998 and has 20 more projects in development.

Wechsler and vice chairman Richard Gelfond spoke about the company’s film activities after reporting profit for the second quarter ended June 30 of $4.1 million, compared with a profit of $3.2 million a year earlier. Revenue climbed to $35.4 million from $28.7 million, largely due to the contribution from film distribution and post-production. Revenue from system sales slipped 5%.

Of the $10.6 million in film revenue in the quarter, $7 million came from distribution.

Wechsler said Imax will release its 3-D version of “The Nutcracker” in November, followed in the first quarter of 1998 by an independently produced film about an ascent of Mt. Everest that resulted in the death of several climbers last year.

“We believe this movie will bring more people to Imax theaters for the first time than any other film in recent Imax history,” Wechsler said.

Sony Corp. also plans to release in the first quarter of next year its next Imax 3-D film, based on the life and stories of Mark Twain.

Next summer, Imax hopes to release its 3-D dinosaur film, “T-Rex.” A Hollywood director and special effects house have been hired although Wechsler declined to name them. At the end of next year, Imax and Paramount are expected to release their 3-D “Star Trek” film.

Budgets for Imax films range from $8 million to $10 million.

In the digital arena, Wechsler said, “Imax is trying to work with companies like Disney, Pixar or DreamWorks that are creating digital animation, because very inexpensively we can reformat — ‘Toy Story,’ for example — into Imax 3-D stereo. For an incremental $6 million we can turn that into stereoscopic Imax 3-D.”

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