China box of­fice to rule by 2018, Imax CEO says

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE - By SUN YE sunye@chi­nadaily.com.cn

China will over­take the United States to be­come the world’s largest box of­fice by 2018, says Imax CEO Richard Gel­fond in an ex­clu­sive in­ter­viewto China Daily.

The coun­try is ex­pected to have the largest num­ber of cin­ema screens by then, says the top of­fi­cial of the Cana­dian com­pany that pro­vides high­tech movie view­ing across the world. Imax an­nounced on Tues­day that it will work with CJ CGV, a South Korean en­ter­tain­ment com­pany, to open 25 more Imax the­aters in China, tak­ing the num­ber of such cine­mas to more than 500.

“There are around 40,000 screens in the US. By 2017, the num­ber of screens (in China) will sur­pass the US,” Gel­fond says. “The box of­fice (in­China) will sur­pass that of the US by 2018.”

Gel­fond de­scribes it as a “turn­ing point” in China’s en­ter­tain­ment history.

“It’s very im­por­tant for the crit­i­cal mass it shows,” Gel­fond says. “When a net­work reaches such a scale and size, it has more lever­age.” Imax­en­teredChina in 2002. China’s movie in­dus­try has grown rapidly in the past few years. The Chi­nese main­land now has more than 31,000 screens, of which, more than 350 are large screens of the likes of Imax and Dmax, a China-based pri­vate­com­pany. The coun­try’s box of­fice this year made more than 40 bil­lion yuan ($6.23 bil­lion) in rev­enue as of Dec 3, ac­cord­ing to China FilmNews, a lo­cal news­pa­per.

“It’s still an early stage,” Gel­fond says of the growth. “There is no ques­tion that more screens will be needed in the next decade.”

China’s ad­van­tages are its peo­ple with more money at their dis­posal to­day than in the pre­vi­ous decades and a stronger ap­petite for af­ford­able en­ter­tain­ment. They also have a smaller range of leisure ac­tiv­i­ties to choose from as com­pared with­USres­i­dents, which will con­tinue to drive China’s do­mes­tic movie in­dus­try inthe next fewyears, he says.

He also expects in­ter­na­tional moviemak­ing to take more into ac­count the needs of Chi­nese au­di­ences, from sto­ry­line to cast­ing.

“It’s al­ready Gel­fond says.

The Mar­tian, a sci-fi movie by Ri­d­ley Scott, for in­stance, shows the res­cue of a stranded as­tro­naut made pos­si­ble

hap­pen­ing,” through the in­ter­ven­tion of a fic­tion­alChi­nese space fa­cil­ity. The fea­ture, star­ring Matt Da­mon, grossed 490 mil­lion yuan at the Chi­nese box of­fice by Tues­day, af­ter screen­ing in the coun­try for two weeks.

While Imax plans to dis­trib­ute its screens in­Chi­nese cities of all sizes, Dmaxre­cently cel­e­brated the in­stal­la­tion of its 100th screen, in Chengdu in South­west China’s Sichuan prov­ince.

Mao Yu, deputy di­rec­tor of the film bureau un­der the State Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Press, Pub­li­ca­tion, Ra­dio, Film and Tele­vi­sion, said at a Dmax event that in­vest­ment in movie tech­nol­ogy was start­ing to pay off, and more com­pa­nies were get­ting in­volved in the area, ac­cord­ing to Xin­hua New Agency.

Yu Chao, deputy gen­eral man­ager of Cap­i­tal Cin­ema, one of Beijing’s old­est cine­mas, says: “Chi­nese au­di­ences are look­ing for all-round, en­joy­able ex­pe­ri­ences rather than just a good sto­ry­line. That’s why there is more de­mand for 3-D, Dolby and 4-DX ef­fects.

“The way cine­mas en­gage the au­di­ences makes a dif­fer­ence. We will be con­stantly need­ing bet­ter equip­ment to de­liver that ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Af­ter all, Yu says, au­di­ences are won over if they get a “good time” in the cine­mas for the money they pay.

There is no ques­tion that more screens will be needed in the next decade (in China).”

Imax CEO

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