IMAX accelerates India plans after blockbuster year

Global entertainment tech company IMAX Corporation will be speeding up its market expansion plans in India after witnessing healthy growth in box office collections in 2022, a top company executive said. IMAX Corporation CEO Richard Gelfond, who is on his fourth trip to India, said that the time is ripe to up its investments in the Indian market as 2022 was the best year for the company after 2019.

"It is the perfect time for IMAX to expand in India because the stars have lined up in the right way. Our box collection is up 41% in 2022 compared to 2019," he said. 'Avatar: The Way of Water', he said, has become IMAX's highest-grossing movie in India. "The movie generated $4 million and is still going very strong. Our per screen average in the country was $900,000 in 2022," he added. Gelfond said IMAX has set a 100-screen target for India in the next five years. "We have 23 screens open, and another 19 screens are in the backlog. We have targeted 100 screens in the next five years," he said.

He noted that IMAX has 800 screens in China with another 200 screens in backlog. "India has a long way to go. It is hugely underscreened," he said. The IMAX top boss said that the company's biggest success in 2022 came in the form of local language films, which contributed 30% to the total box office collections.

"We made a breakthrough in local language content in 2022. IMAX was perceived as a Hollywood-focussed brand. But now, people say it is a place to go for blockbuster movies whether it is Hollywood, Bollywood, or South Indian," he added.

IMAX's strategy to grow its business in India is three-fold, Gelfond revealed. The company will release more local language blockbuster films, open new screens, and go deeper by partnering with single screen theatres. "We are going to double our bets on local language films. We did six local language films in 2022 and we intend to do 10-12 in 2023," Gelfond said.

"We will be installing six theatres this year. We have 23 screens open, so six is about 25% growth in our network this year. We will also target some of the independent single-screen theatre operators around the country," he noted. IMAX will partner with real estate developers besides strengthening relationships with existing clients like PVR, Inox and Cinepolis. "Together, PVR and Inox will be financially much stronger than they were during the pandemic," he said.

He also pointed out that Indian films are doing well in overseas markets by citing the example of Telugu film 'RRR', which he said collected $3.6 million in the US through IMAX. "IMAX's involvement with Indian films is not just in India but also in other countries. Indian films do well in the Middle East, the US and the UK. We have helped the Indian film industry gain international exposure," he said.