‘Avatar’ boosts Imax grosses

Pic lifts large-format firm's take past $100 mil in 4th quarter

Fueled by 20th Century Fox’s “Avatar,” Imax theaters reached a record $100 million in worldwide box office grosses in the final quarter of 2009.

It’s a first for the large-format exhib for a single quarter.

B.O. receipts for the fourth quarter repped a 225% increase over the same period in 2008, when global grosses hit $31 million. Results for the quarter ended Dec. 31 included $54 million in ticket sales for James Cameron’s “Avatar.”

For the year, gross box office receipts for Imax theaters increased 108% to a record $270 million vs. $130 million in 2008.

Among other 2009 highlights, Warner Bros. and Imax’s jointly produced “Under the Sea 3D” took in $25 million globally.

Imax theaters are benefiting from the increasing number of 3D titles appearing on the marquee. Hollywood studios are eager to have these titles play in every venue possible since there is an overall shortage of 3D screens: Domestically, there are now upwards of 2,000 3D locations, including roughly 180 Imax theaters.

“We consistently delivered approximately 10% of the box office, on average, of any major title in our network this year, on less than 3% of the screens,” CEO Richard L. Gelfond said.

Imax’s global cume for “Avatar” was $66.4 million through Sunday out of a total gross of $1.02 billion.

Its 2010 slate includes original docu “Hubble 3D,” a co-production with Warners; Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland”; “How to Train Your Dragon” and “Shrek Forever After,” both from DreamWorks Animation/Paramount; and Summit Entertainment’s “Eclipse.”

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