Imax to Release Local-Language Trio for Chinese New Year (EXCLUSIVE)

Premium large format film company Imax is positioning itself for its biggest ever week at the box office in China. For the first time, it will simultaneously release three Chinese-language pictures this weekend in time for Chinese New Year.

Edko’s “Monster Hunt 2,” Bona Film Group’s “Operation Red Sea” and Wanda Film’s “Detective Chinatown 2” will play on the country’s 500 Imax screens. All three open on Feb. 16, and “Monster Hunt 2” plays at the Berlin Film Festival over the weekend as a special screening.

The multi-title opening is the result of a change of strategy in China, which is now the second-largest theatrical market in the world, and is likely soon to be Imax’s biggest market. It also reflects the evolution of the Chinese audiences, which have varying patterns of behavior and diverging tastes in different cities and regions.

That strategy means that Imax no longer gives automatic precedence to Hollywood titles in China, as strong local titles can do bigger business. And rather than dictating terms on a nationwide basis, the changed emphasis also provides flexibility to exhibitors to split runs and play different titles to different segments.

“We used to give Hollywood titles precedence and date releases around them. Now we see local films have the greater upside. Similarly, we used to try to pick one movie at a time and roll the dice,” an IMAX source told Variety. “What we are doing now shows that China is not anyone’s 51st state, and instead is truly its own market.”

The changed emphasis began last year and was announced by CEO Rich Gelfond. “Given the difficult nature of predicting box office for local language titles, we’re now DMRing [converting to the Imax format] multiple Chinese films during bigger weekends and holidays. So rather than sending our exhibitor partners one film during big weekends, we’ll often send them two or three and let them program our screens based on presales and overall traction and give them the flexibility to pivot based on box office results,” Gelfond said in October, speaking on an earnings call with financial analysts.

“During the recent October holiday, we chose to DMR two local language titles: ‘The Foreigner’ and ‘Never Say Die.’ We began by splitting the screens evenly; however, as buzz for ‘Never Say Die’ picked up, that became the stronger title, and thus we pivoted and programmed with more showings of that film,” he added.

The Canada-based company has a separate Hong Kong-listed Imax China subsidiary. It operates a mixture of screens that are client-owned and others that are revenue-sharing joint ventures. In the last financial year, when Chinese box office wobbled, Imax saw some films underperform. But Gelfond says China remains one of the company’s biggest growth prospects. In October 2017 it had a backlog of 350 screens still to be installed in the Middle Kingdom.

More Film

  • A Faithful Man

    Film Review: 'A Faithful Man'

    French actor Louis Garrel has been married twice, first to Iranian talent Golshifteh Farahani, and now to model-cum-actress Laetitia Casta. He has also directed two features, the first a free-wheeling love-triangle comedy called “Two Friends” in which Garrel plays the cad who comes between his best friend and the object of his obsession (played by [...]

  • LGBTQ Film Festival Outfest Opens With

    LGBTQ Film Festival Outfest Opens With Documentary About Gay Porn Shops Circus of Books

    Granted, the red carpet at the opening night of Outfest in DTLA may not have been the most star-studded but it was without a doubt the most diverse, inclusive and, yes, fabulous. “I’ve never been here before,” admitted “RuPaul’s Drag Race” vet Trixie Mattel, who stars in the documentary “Moving Parts.” “It’s supposed to be [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Russ Tamblyn's Career Had Legs After Childhood

    With an acting career that spans work for Cecil B. DeMille and Joseph Losey to Quentin Tarantino and David Lynch, Russ Tamblyn’s creativity and longevity is proof that there’s life after child stardom. In Tamblyn’s case, there’s also been a bounty of juicy film and TV roles long after his legendary legs no longer kicked [...]

  • Olivia Wilde Booksmart Director

    Film News Roundup: Olivia Wilde to Direct Holiday Comedy for Universal

    In today’s film news roundup, Olivia Wilde has landed another directing gig following “Booksmart” and revenge thriller “Seaside” and “Woodstock: The Directors Cut” get August release dates. PROJECT LAUNCH Olivia Wilde will direct and produce an untitled holiday comedy project for Universal Pictures with her “Booksmart” partner Katie Silberman. Universal outbid five other studios for [...]

  • Choas Charles Mansion and the CIA

    Amazon Studios Takes Film Rights to Manson-Centered Drama 'Chaos' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Just in time for the 50th anniversary of the grisly murders executed by the followers of Charles Manson, Amazon Studios has optioned film rights to a nonfiction title about a journalist who spent decades obsessively following the case. The studio will adapt “Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties,” from [...]

  • Sword of Trust

    Marc Maron on 'Sword of Trust,' Lynn Shelton and Conspiracy Theories

    Marc Maron has interviewed everyone from Bruce Springsteen to President Obama, so he’s probably learned a few things about being a good interview. Of course, as he points out, he generally has over an hour to talk leisurely speak with his guests in his home and draw out stories beyond the public narrative; it’s a [...]

  • Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes - The

    Andrew Lincoln's ‘Walking Dead’ Movies to Be Released Only in Theaters

    The first planned movie centered on “The Walking Dead” character Rick Grimes will now run in theaters rather than on AMC. The announcement was made with a brief teaser video played at San Diego Comic-Con on Friday, with the video ending with the words “Only in Theaters.” The film will be distributed by Universal Pictures. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content