US exhibitor National Amusements is opening its first-ever Imax cinema in the New Year. According to National Amusements president Shari Redstone, the cinema will be launched with the premiere of Walt Disney's Beauty And The Beast on Jan. 1, 2002. The new facility will be located at the circuit's 17-screen LA flagship entertainment complex, The Bridge.

The announcement is a piece of good news for the beleaguered large format screen company, which has been buffeted by the protracted downturn in the North American exhibition market. In a statement, Imax Co-CEOs Richard L. Gelfond and Bradley J. Wechsler said, "The strongest film slate ever will be made available to the large-format industry during the next 18 months," citing such upcoming releases as Steve Oedekerk's Santa vs. The Snowman, The Young Black Stallion, Disney's prequel to The Black Stallion, and James Cameron's Ghosts Of The Abyss as well as Imax's own 3D film Space Station, which is to be narrated by Tom Cruise.