Giant-screen cinema company Imax and Greater China exhibition company Broadway have struck a deal to build four additional Imax theaters in mainland China’s biggest city Shanghai. The agreement means that Imax is on course to have close to 1,000 venues in operation in mainland China.
All four downtown Shanghai sites will adopt top-end laser technology. They include One East, a flagship mixed use property owned and operated by Brookfield Properties that is set to open later in 2021.
Broadway, affiliated to Bill Kong’s Hong Kong-based Edko distribution and exhibition group, now operates 436 screens in 52 complexes in China. Broadway has eight Imax theaters in some of mainland China’s top markets, including Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Hangzhou and Chongqing.
Cinemas in China were allowed to reopen in mid-July last year after nearly six months of mandatory closure due to the coronavirus outbreak. Business began to bounce back strongly with the release of strong local titles such “The Eight Hundred” and following the further easing of in-theater seating restrictions from October 2020.
“Moviegoing has come roaring back post-pandemic in China, offering the world a glimpse of the pent-up consumer demand that awaits multiplexes worldwide,” said Rich Gelfond, CEO of IMAX.
Imax China reported hefty losses for 2020, reflecting last year’s prolonged cinema closures and the impact on customers and business operations. But the recent Lunar New Year period was the strongest on record and Imax has been able to increase its share of the national box office total when compared with 2019 and the early part of 2020.
The company recently reported 750 theaters in operation in mainland China. The Broadway deal means that it has a further 248 in backlog.
“With the continuous upgrade of China’s film industry and content, the premium movie experience represented by Imax has become the key driving force to attract audiences back and strongly support the box office recovery post pandemic,” said Broadway Cinemas CEO Tessa Lau.
Broadway also operates 13 cinemas with 70 screens in Hong Kong, giving it a market leading share of 40%. Rival Hong Kong exhibitor UA, which operates two Imax venues, on Monday said that it had filed for voluntary liquidation.