Toronto-based large format operator IMAX is to open three new theatres in China, expanding the country's number of IMAX theatres to eight by 2005.

The new developments - in Beijing and South Chinese city Dongguan - come just six months after IMAX officially launched in the territory with a Chinese and Asian office in Shanghai. The company has already opened two theatres in the Shanghai Science & Technology Museum, with three more cinemas planned this year.

One of the newly-announced theatres will be situated in the new China Film Museum in Beijing. The other two theatres are both in Dongguan - one in the South China Mall, developed by the Sanyuan Yinghui Investment and Development Company, and the other in the Dongguan Science and Technology Museum, developed by The People's Government of Dongguan City.

The new developments come as a further boost to IMAX, which, like other Western exhibitors is keen to gain access to China's massive market - the country has 1.3bn people - as Western markets become ever more saturated.

"The theatres scheduled to open by 2005 make China the fastest growing market for IMAX in its 35 year history," co-chairmen and co-CEOs Richard L. Gelfond and Bradley J. Wechlser said in a statement.