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Imax CEO Says China Likely to Overtake U.S. as Biggest Market

Imax Corp. CEO Richard Gelfond
Richard Gelfond, chief executive officer of Imax Corp. Photographer: Stefen Chow/Bloomberg

Imax Corp., the operator of large-screen movie theaters, says it is likely China will overtake the U.S. as its biggest market as sales growth in accelerates in the world’s most populous nation.

Contribution to sales from China, the company’s fastest growing market, is expected to increase to about 25 percent in the next five years from 10 percent currently, Richard Gelfond, the company’s chief executive officer said in an interview today. Box-office sales for China surged tenfold to 286 million yuan ($43.6 million) last year from a year earlier.

“More than half of our revenue comes from the U.S., but we do think it’s likely China will overtake the U.S. as the biggest market at some point in the future,” Gelfond said.

Imax, based in Mississauga, Ontario, is exploring options to expand beyond its core market, he said earlier this month. Developing markets present “enormous opportunities,” with China and Russia being the most exciting while Europe is under-served, he said.

Gelfond said today he also sees potential in India. The company plans to open at least 100 theaters annually worldwide for the next two to three years, he said.

Imax will open 75 more theaters with Wanda Cinemas Corp., its biggest partner in China, by the end of 2014, it said today. The agreement brings the total number of Imax theaters slated to be open in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan to 177 over “the next few years,” according to a release distributed by Globe Newswire.

Imax more than tripled its global box-office sales for films over two years to $587 million in 2010, according to the company.

Its shares have declined 5.2 percent this year in New York trading, compared with the 3.2 percent gain in the benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

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