Giant screen entertainment company Imax Corp has made its first foray into South America, signing agreements to build four theatres, two each in Chile and Ecuador.

The first Ecuadorian facility will be located in Guayaquil and operated by the Malecon 2000 Foundation; the second will be operated by the Universidad San Francisco in Quito. Both Chilean facilities will be operated by Megascreen SA; the first, a 3D theatre, will be in Santiago; the location of the second is yet to be determined. All four theatres are scheduled to open by the end of 2003.

Imax has opened or signed deals for a number of new cinemas in Vienna and Nuremberg, Germany, as well as China. Later this month the first Imax 3D screen in Slovakia will open in Bratislava. Last month the company announced its first 3D cinema to be built in Moscow.

In a statement, Imax co-CEO and co-chairmen Richard L. Gelfond and Bradley J. Wechsler said that once an IMAX theatre opens in a new region, that theatre typically drives demand for even more theatres. "We are optimistic that this will be the case in South America. The combination of the low, but growing, penetration of IMAX theatres around the world and the increasingly strong film slate for IMAX theatres reinforces our confidence that IMAX still has significant opportunities for continued growth."