IMAX could double its presence in Russia this year, the company told ScreenDaily at Cine Expo.

Julian Stanford, General Manager, Theatre Development, Europe, Middle East & Africa, said that the company has six cinemas operating in Russia currently, and various negotiations are underway now to boost that number significantly. “Russia’s a great market for us,” Stanford said. “Three of the top grossing IMAX screens for Shrek Forever After are in Russia. 3D in general does well there, so IMAX 3D is very very strong.”

In all, IMAX currently has 57 screens in Europe, with a further 16 coming through. Stanford said that figure could reach 100 by the end of 2010, with growth in Russia, Ukraine, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, and The Netherlands, plus the company’s first screen in Kazakhstan. Most new system plans are coming from distributors who already work with IMAX. “They can see the proven numbers,” he said.

In all, IMAX has 438 screens as of March 31. A new deal was announced yesterday for an Odeon IMAX in
Liverpool, England. More European theatre deals will be announced in coming weeks.

On the content side, IMAX is embarking on its first non-English-language release this year, with Feng Xiaogang’s Aftershock: The Imax Experience with The Huayi Brothers, out in China on July 22. Stanford said that IMAX would work with other foreign-language films as long as they were visually rich and “whenever we have a committed market for it. We need a base of a certain number of screens to make it economically viable.” It is also about finding slots — as IMAX has a full slate of 14 titles per year.

The company is still working with some 2D films, he noted. “IMAX was here before 3D and we’ll be here after 3D if it goes away.” For instance, Christopher Nolan’s hotly anticipated Inception (July 16) will screen on IMAX, as will The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (the first of that franchise to be shown on IMAX, opening June 30).

Stanford noted that the IMAX experience continues to be different, even than digital 3D. “We do a different version of the film in many cases,” he noted. “It’s the version directors want you to see. For Avatar, it was James Cameron’s preferred version. And for Tron: Legacy, the IMAX version of that will be slightly different.”

IMAX 3D can also bring the effects closers and bigger to the audience because of the system’s tech specs.

The company continues to do about one in-house production per year. This year’s release is documentary Hubble 3D, and in production is animal orphan film Call Of The Wild.

The IMAX release line-up for the rest of the year also includes Resident Evil: Afterlife (Sept 10); Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’hoole (Sept 24); Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 1 (Nov 19); and Tron: Legacy (Dec 17). In 2011, the company has already slated Sucker Punch for March 25 and Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2 for July 15.