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IMAX CEO: China box office 'close to turning point,' emphasizes 'the movies are back'

·Senior Reporter
·2 min read
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On the heels of IMAX's (IMAX) strong second quarter earnings report, CEO Richard Gelfond is more than confident that the movies are back in business.

"It's not just that the movies are back — they're back for different age groups," Gelfond told Yahoo Finance Live in a new interview, referencing the wide variety of available content.

"Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness," "Top Gun: Maverick" and "Jurassic World: Dominion" helped lift overall box office performance in the second quarter, with global box office totals reaching $247.7 million, an increase of 128% year-over-year.

Still, the executive warned that the production pipeline will slow in the third quarter, citing pandemic backlogs; however, he maintained that IMAX greatly benefits from its overseas business with only about a third of its revenues coming from the U.S.

IMAX screens accounted for 14% of
IMAX screens accounted for 14% of "Top: Gun: Maverick's" $160.5 million domestic opening weekend (Courtesy: Paramount)

IMAX plans to expand its worldwide reach by releasing 15 local language titles across 50 global markets in the third quarter.

Gelfond added during the earnings call that IMAX is in touch with streaming companies for "downstream licensing opportunities," in addition to exploring more global experiences and live events beyond just blockbusters.

"We've been diversifying away from just the traditional model of only blockbusters even though that sounds strange...there's a lot more depth," the executive noted.

He added, "you have to leverage off these blockbusters, which we've done well, but also provide alternative content."

'We're close to the turning point in China'

Last month, Beijing and Shanghai — key markets for the international box office — announced it would start to reopen after about two months of intense lockdowns that forced citizens to remain indoors.

The second quarter suffered the brunt of those lockdowns as most theaters in the region remained shuttered; however, the company revealed that 91% of IMAX screens are currently operating in the country— up from 65% on April 26.

China box office receipts fell 46% in the quarter, contributing a mere 11% to the global total.

"The box office was definitely depressed for the first six months of the year," Gelfond admitted, but emphasized that "we're close to the turning point in China."

Overall, attendance in China has seen "diminished capacity" amid a lack of content, but Gelfond anticipates that more film approvals, like the upcoming "Avatar" sequel, should help drive traffic, in addition to increased local language films

IMAX is down roughly 10% year-to-date.

Alexandra is a Senior Entertainment and Food Reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @alliecanal8193 and email her at alexandra.canal@yahoofinance.com

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