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IMAX CEO: Blockbuster movies are like water to us

We live in the era of the blockbuster films: James Cameron’s “Avatar,” J.J. Abrams’ “Star Wars,” Marvel’s “The Avengers.” And as films get bigger, so does the movie-watching experience.

“Asking us, ‘How important are blockbusters?’ is like asking people how important water is,” IMAX (IMAX) CEO Richard Gelfond told Yahoo Finance’s On the Move. “A lot of the mid-level movies have moved on to streaming platforms, whereas the blockbuster really plays to a global audience.”

According to Gelfond, who has led the company since 2009, there is a lot more demand for IMAX films today than supply. Moviegoers will wait longer to go and see a specific blockbuster rather than see other films in theaters. This partly has to do with the treasure trove of content found on streamings services nowadays.

“So when you look ahead to next year, I'll start at the end of the year is the next ‘Avatar,’ Gelfond said. “And of course, that's the biggest movie ever. And it's a decade old. So if you inflation adjusted it, it will be even bigger.”

American box offices have seen losses in the first quarter of 2019 while IMAX has seen gains — largely from higher profits overseas. Less than 30% of IMAX’s revenues come from North America, while the Chinese Box office alone made $105.8 million in 2019 through March 31. That’s more than $30 million more than the U.S. box office over the same time period.

Monte Cox, animal coordinator for Imax films, feeds bottle water to Pride, a 550-pound white lion, as he relaxes in the shade on the porch of Seigried and Roy's private enclave in Las Vegas "Little Bavaria" on Thursday, June 18, 1998. (AP Photo/Lennox McLendon)

BEYOND BLOCKBUSTERS

IMAX hopes to keep building on their recent success and grow more domestically with the help of alternative content.

The company is planning on expanding from just blockbuster movies to a myriad of kinds of blockbuster content. IMAX did not receive the marks they were hoping for in the virtual reality field, but the company are building a foundation in destination entertainment of various types.

Gelfond noted that “if we could capture some of that during the non-blockbuster time, I think this just could be the beginning of where IMAX can go. So I think the short answer is expanding beyond blockbuster movies to other kinds of blockbuster content.”

From Esports to on-screen concerts, IMAX is selling a voyeuristic viewing party to events you may not have access to live with its 520,000 seats worldwide.

What has grown in recent years is the rising importance of experiences: An era that will see people across the world watching people named Ninja play Fortnite or take in a taped performance of a musical performance, all while sitting in a red movie seat.

Ignazio is a producer for Yahoo Finance.

READ MORE: Esports may be coming to IMAX screens

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