UCI Cinemas inaugurated Rome’s first Imax theater with the local premiere Wednesday of “X-Men: Dark Phoenix” in Imax 3D, filling an exhibition gap that had seen the Italian capital lag behind Milan, Florence and Naples and also other major European cities.
Cosplayers impersonating the film’s characters such as Mystique, Cyclops, Beast and Storm strutted down the red carpet of the UCI Porta di Roma multiplex on Rome’s outskirts, posing as guests took selfies. The 150-square-meter (roughly 1600-square-foot) Imax screen, with a 12-channel sound system, is the fourth UCI Cinemas Imax in Italy, which now has six Imax theaters in total.
“We are proud of our collaboration with Imax Corporation that has allowed us to inaugurate the first Imax in Rome,” said Ramon Biarnes, managing director for Southern Europe of UCI parent company Odeon Cinemas Group. Odeon is Europe’s largest exhibition chain, and is owned by U.S.-based AMC Theaters. AMC in turn is owned by China’s Dalian Wanda Group.
The UCI-operated Imax theaters in Italy are part of a 2017 deal signed by AMC and Imax to create 25 new Imax theaters by 2020 across Europe, including in the U.K., Germany, and Scandinavia.
UCI Cinemas Italia – which is Italy’s leading exhibitor, with 500 screens, and commands the country’s highest movie market share – is considered a key player in implementing the new push to get Italian moviegoers into theaters during summer when the country’s screens have long been considered off-limits. For the first time in decades, the Hollywood studios have aligned the release dates of their summer blockbusters, such as Fox’s “X-Men: Dark Phoenix,” with the rest of Europe.
Biarnes has vowed that, by 2023, half of UCI Cinemas in Italy will be upgraded to so-called Luxe standard, which, among other things, means reclining seats with footrests and food tables.
While there are now more than 1,500 Imax screens worldwide, penetration in continental Europe is proving slower than other parts of the world, though Imax now appears to be on track to reach its stated goal of about 250 venues in Europe by 2020, including the world’s largest Imax screen, to be launched next year in Germany.