Maintaining its recent expansion into international markets, Toronto-based large format operator IMAX Corp is to open Russia's first 3-D IMAX theatre this autumn.
The IMAX theatre is to be housed in Moscow's new Ramstore hypermarket, with site owner Ramenka saying that it is currently holding a tender for an operator. According to local press reports, frontrunners are thought to include BFC Cinema, a partner of Russian distributor Cascade, and Cinema Park, founded by Nikita Mikhalkov's Three T Studio. The amphitheater-style hall will seat between 300 and 600.
The news follows a recent upswing in the Russian exhibition sector. Earlier this year, the Russian-backed Formula Kino opened the country's first multiplex, and National Amusements is to open an 11-screen multiplex next year.
A move into Russia could also provide further momentum to the current upswing in IMAX's fortunes. The company has experienced a difficult few years after it was hit by problems arising from overcapacity in the US exhibition sector.
Last week, however, IMAX shares jumped 15% at the news that the European Commission had dismissed a lawsuit brought against IMAX by Euromax, an association of European large format theatres. Euromax had alleged that the company had violated European competition rules by forcing exhibitors to hire IMAX technicians to fix projectors.
IMAX, which has more than 220 theatres worldwide, recently also made a move into China, setting up its Asian headquarters in Shanghai and planning four IMAX theatres for the city by the end of next year. The company will also open India's first 3-D IMAX screen in Hyderabad early next year.
In addition, IMAX announced yesterday that Creative Artists Agency (CAA) will represent the company in its efforts to secure new high-profile Hollywood product for day-and-date release to IMAX theatres worldwide. Using its own proprietary DMR (digital remastering) technology, the company can transfer 35mm film for large format IMAX projection - at a cost of some $2m-$4m per picture.
Releases of high-profile feature-length studio films onto huge IMAX screens have proved very successful for IMAX. When Disney rolled out Fantasia 2000 exclusively on IMAX screens prior to a 35mm run in January 2000, the film banked $20m in its first month.
Apollo 13, the first 35mm live-action film to be digitally re-mastered for IMAX is released on September 20, and Disney's Treasure Planet is seeing a day-and-date release on conventional and large format screens in North America on 27th November.
"CAA's unparalleled relationships with the studios, directors and performing artists will further the great progress that we've already made to release Hollywood films to IMAX theatres," said IMAX Co-CEOs Richard L. Gelfond and Bradley J. Wechsler in a statement. "This new partnership is an important next step to secure event films for simultaneous release to the IMAX network and strategically position IMAX as a new distribution window for upcoming event films."
IMAX has also posted a set of upbeat second quarter results, and says that it is on track for a return to profitability in 2002. Net earnings of $0.09 per share in the second quarter compare with losses of $0.37 per share in the same period last year, while film revenue was $13.2m versus $7.6m in the second quarter of 2001, largely down to the strong performance of the Tom Cruise-narrated Space Station, which has grossed more than $21m in 16 weeks on release.
"We are pleased with our second quarter results which mark another step in completing the financial transformation of the company and our return to profitability," said IMAX Co-Chief Executive Officers Richard L. Gelfond and Bradley J. Wechsler in a statement.
Anna Franklin contributed to this report