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Imax thinking big in Europe

Premium format gains ground on continent

Digitization isn’t just offering new opportunities for regular cinemas, it’s also led to the rapid growth of Imax Corp. around the globe in terms of box office and screens.

This year Imax has inked a slew of deals across Europe and more may be on the way.

Europe has some 57 Imax screens. Asia, by comparison, has 63. Imax CEO Rich Gelfond says new construction projects, particularly in China, helped accelerate growth in Asia.

“It was easy to fit Imax in a new complex where you’re starting from scratch,” Gelfond says. “In Europe, because of the zoning restrictions and the aging of the multiplex system, it was a lot harder to find good locations.

“But given how strongly things are going, people are looking at things like raising ceilings and giving away their biggest box. There’s more of an open-mindedness because of the financial returns.”

Eastern Europe has emerged as a receptive market, with a recent deal in Russia for an additional Imax in the Black Sea city of Krasnodar and in Croatia for a new venue in Zagreb. The group already has five theaters in Poland and the first Imax recently opened in Bucharest, Romania.

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In Western Europe, the group is partnering with Gaumont Pathe for four new theaters in France and with Odeon/UCI for a sixth theater in the U.K.

The company is in discussions with potential partners in Italy, Spain and Portugal.

“I think this is the year we’re going to see a lot of growth in Western Europe,” Gelfond adds.

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