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IMAX Finds Winning Strategy at Chinese New Year

Giant screen company, IMAX looks set be one of the biggest winners of the peak box office season in China that comes with the Lunar New Year holidays.

It broke company records on Tuesday, the first day of Chinese New Year, with $6.67 million (RMB45 million). That is 12.5% higher than IMAX’s previous high, at Chinese New Year 2019.

For the second year in a row, the company has programmed its 604 Middle Kingdom venues with three local films. In its earlier years in China, the company had favored Hollywood titles over local films. And, among local films, it had sought to pick one or two winners.

“The Wandering Earth” led the pack on the first day with an estimated $3.26 million (RMB22 million). IMAX screens accounted for 12% of the film’s total estimated gross. In addition, “Crazy Alien” generated an estimated $2.67 million (RMB18 million) on IMAX screens, and “Pegasus” grossed an estimated $741,000 (RMB5 million) in IMAX theaters.

The company’s change of programming strategy last year meant that IMAX venues can switch program and timing, according to audience taste and attempt to keep up with fast-moving word of mouth.

On Tuesday, IMAX began offering Ning Hao’s “Crazy Alien,” Han Han’s “Pegasus” and new sci-fi film “Wandering Earth.” “There are other strong titles, but we felt these three best fit our network strengths in China,” a company spokesman told Variety.

Of the eight new films released this week, these three headed the field, with “Crazy Alien” leading the pack on both Tuesday and Wednesday. However, on the second day, “Wandering Earth” looked to have claimed second spot from “Pegasus.”

By 3pm on Wednesday “Crazy Alien” had added $28.2 million (RMB191 million), for a running total of $88 million (RMB594 million). “Wandering Earth” had scored $24.4 million (RMB165 million) for a score of $53.9 million (RMB363 million,) and “Pegasus” added $18.3 million (RMB124 million) for $65 million (RMB439 million).

IMAX and distributor CMC Pictures confirmed that “Wandering Earth” is having a limited, two day run on 34 IMAX screens in North America, ahead of those screens being reprogrammed with the “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part.” The film will also play on a single IMAX screen in Auckland, New Zealand, from Feb. 5-13, but did not secure IMAX screens in Australia.

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