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Imax, Cinemark Expand Relationship, Announce New Venues (EXCLUSIVE)

Imax Corporation and Cinemark have signed a new deal, Variety has learned.

The partnership includes the renewal of all of Cinemark’s existing Imax locations, as well as the installation of two Imax theaters. The new venues will include Imax’s laser projection system, which the company says produces a crisper image. Cinemark will add a 12-channel immersive sound system to a new Imax theater at its complex in Daly City, California as well as upgrade the existing Imax theater at its Milford, Connecticut venue.

Laser technology was a key selling point as Imax CEO Richard Gelfond tried to convince Cinemark CEO Mark Zoradi to expand the company’s deal. In order to make his pitch, Gelfond showed footage of Rebecca Ferguson, outfitted in a glittering ball gown, singing an operatic number in “The Greatest Showman.”

“There is a tangible difference,” said Gelfond. “Certain colors look brighter or darker. The contrast is better. If you see side-by-side comparisons, it’s unmistakable.”

Zoradi agrees calling the picture quality “spectacular.” Even though most consumers know little about laser projection, he think audiences will appreciate the technology’s visual enhancements.

“We will educate the consumer and hopefully they’ll be able to see and notice the difference,” said Zoradi.

With Thursday’s announcement, nearly all of Cinemark’s Imax theaters are now under agreement through 2026. In addition, Imax will touch up certain locations with new entryways and other features. Cinemark opened its first Imax theatre in 1999 and, with the current agreement, it now has a total of 14 Imax theater that are currently open. An additional location is expected to open in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Of the three major chains, a group that includes Regal and AMC, Imax has the smallest footprint with the Cinemark circuit. However, the company thinks that there are more opportunities to add future Imax venues at Cinemark locations. As part of its agreement with other theater chains, Imax cannot install its patented technology within certain agreed upon geographic distances.

With that caveat, Gelfond said Imax has “identified a number of locations we could go into with Cinemark.”

Cinemark has invested heavily in its own in-house large format theaters, dubbed Cinemark XD. Zoradi said there are no plans to abandon those venues.

“We’re not walking away from XD,” said Zoradi. “Both of these offerings can live together side-by-side.”

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