Imax racks up deals

Edwards, Krikorian, Empire order screens

TORONTO — Edwards Cinemas has ordered 10 Imax 3-D theater systems to be built in its new multiplexes over the next five years.

Imax Corp. of Toronto and Edwards Theatres Circuit Inc. of Newport Beach confirmed the deal Monday after a report last week that Edwards planned to build a 22-screen megaplex, with an Imax screen, at L.A.’s Howard Hughes Entertainment Center.

The Howard Hughes project is Edwards’ first location in the city of Los Angeles and the first Imax theater to be built under the agreement. Groundbreaking is expected early next year and the complex is scheduled to open in spring 1999. Imax theaters will also be included in Edwards’ in Fresno and Houston theaters. The company already operates two Imax 3-D theaters in California — in Irvine and Ontario — and is slated to open a third, in Valencia, next year.

No financial terms of Edwards’ agreement with Imax were disclosed, but industry sources pegged the value of the deal at $20 million to $30 million.

That Edwards made public its deal with Imax about two weeks after Regal Cinemas Inc. of Knoxville, Tenn., announced an order of equal size reflects growing competition in the exhibition industry, the sources said.

Imax co-chairman Richard Gelfond told Daily Variety that he anticipates the accelerated pace of signings will generate further momentum.

There was plenty of momentum Monday in Imax stock. The share price jumped $2 to $26.75 on 268,700 shares on the NASDAQ stock market and C$2.90 to C$36.75 on 106,634 shares on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Separately, Imax announced the sale of two more theater systems Monday — one to Krikorian Premiere Theatres of Redondo Beach for an Imax 3-D theater at its Gas Lamp theater in San Diego; and another to Empire Theatres in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the biggest theater chain in Canada’s Atlantic provinces.

With Monday’s announcements, Imax has signed 22 orders in 2-1/2 weeks, compared with 29 in all of 1996.

Most of the orders are for the Imax 3-D SR system, a smaller version of the conventional Imax theater introduced about three months ago. It’s intended to bring bigscreen movie technology to smaller markets.

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