Imax CEO sees network growing 30 percent annually

Thu Jun 23, 2011 12:40pm EDT
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By Tova Cohen

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Imax expects to continue to expand its network of theatres at an annual pace of about 30 percent and is bullish on growth prospects in China, chief executive Richard Gelfond said on Thursday.

The Canadian big-screen movie company, which has 550 theatres worldwide, of which 400 are commercial, is opening over 100 theatres a year.

"We have been growing at about 30 percent a year over the last several years in terms of the size of our network and we expect to see a similar growth rate in the future," Gelfond told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference.

Imax has ridden a wave of popularity for 3D movies and its large-screen format in North America and emerging markets such as China. Gelfond said he was very enthusiastic about China where Imax has 40 theatres and will open another 50 this year. Its backlog will bring the number in China to 177.

"Nothing goes up forever but I am a big believer. If China (economy) hits some speed bumps, entertainment tends to be a fairly recession-resilient business as we just learned in the worldwide economy over the last few years," Gelfond said.

Russia is also a very fast growing market for Imax, which has about 250 commercial theatres in the United States, where growth is rapid but not as fast as in China.

"I am not sure if China will pass the U.S. but I would not be shocked to see that happen," he said.

Eastern Europe has been a faster growth market for Imax than western Europe, where there are real estate constraints.   Continued...