Beijing-based film studio Huayi Brothers Media has formed a partnership with IMAX Corp to co-produce and distribute three large-format films, starting with Feng Xiaogang’s $18m disaster drama Aftershock.

Aftershock will be the first Chinese commercial film to be released in the IMAX format and will also mark IMAX’s first international project outside of the US market. The film will be released in IMAX cinemas in China, other parts of Asia and key North American markets in July 2010.

IMAX anticipates that Aftershock will play in 25-30 IMAX theatres in greater China and other parts of Asia when it opens next summer.

All three films under the deal will be digitally remastered into the IMAX format and distributed to IMAX cinemas worldwide. However, the second and third films under the deal are likely to also be shot with IMAX cameras like Hollywood productions such as Harry Potter And The Half-blood Prince.

“This new arrangement enables the IMAX theatre network to expand beyond its role as a key distribution platform for Hollywood blockbusters and introduce a global audience to major movie studios outside of North America,” said IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond.

Aftershock, which starts shooting next month in China’s Hangzhou City, follows the life-changing moments and psychological dimensions of a seven year-old girl who survived the 1976 Tangshan earthquake. The film’s China premiere is scheduled for July 28 on the 34th anniversary of the Tangshan earthquake.

Currently, IMAX owns 371 theatres in 43 countries.China is the company’s largest international growth market with 18 theatres currently open and more than 40 scheduled to be open by the end of 2012.