IMAX is planning to massively expand its presence in Europe, a change in strategy for the company that has, until recently, predominantly focused on China. Announcing the plans for its expansion, IMAX’s CEO Rich Gelfond revealed that cinemagoers should expect 25 new screens in the next three years – bringing the total number of European IMAX screens up to 217.
The expansion of IMAX in Europe is being fuelled by a new deal with AMC Theaters, which owns some of the largest cinema operators in the continent. The brands owned by AMC includes Europe’s largest operator, Odeon, which boasts 122 locations in the UK, 11 in Ireland, plus another 109 locations throughout Europe which carry the UCI Cinemas brand. It also owns Nordic Cinema Group, which has 103 cinemas in six countries.
AMC Theaters has been a close partner of IMAX in the US, and now it’s looking to bring that relationship across the pond. The deal between the two companies will expand AMC’s current IMAX presence from 22 screens in Europe to a whopping 47. Construction has already begun on new IMAX cinemas in Germany, Norway and Italy.
The UK will likely see most of the new IMAX cinemas, with as many as 10 sites being considered under current plans. That excludes those currently being developed by Odeon’s competitor, Cineworld, which signed a five-cinema deal with IMAX last year. That deal made Cineworld the largest IMAX exhibitor in Europe, with a total of 40 cinemas boasting the large format screens – now AMC is hoping to take that crown.
The first new IMAX locations are expected to open later this year, with 10 sites across the UK, Ireland, Germany, Spain and Italy having already been identified for new IMAX cinemas.
AMC’s new European IMAX screens won’t just have the benefit of a larger display, they’ll also enjoy IMAX’s 12 channel surround system, which adds four overhead speakers and two additional side speakers for the full 3D audio experience. It may not be Dolby Atmos, but it should enhance the user’s immersion. They’ll also utilise IMAX’s proprietary projector technology, although it’s thought that the vast majority of screens with use the digital xenon projectors, rather than the far better laser variant.
IMAX has been cosying up to AMC’s European brands as of late. The company officially partnered with Odeon for the European launch of its VR offering, which is set to open in Manchester soon. AMC has also been rather bullish with attracting consumers into its European screens – committing hundreds of millions of dollars on upgrading its offering this side of the pond.
In the US, AMC has revitalised its cinemas through an aggressive refurbishment strategy, and a concentration on high-tech solutions. That includes the installation of countless IMAX screens, as well as Dolby Cinema experiences – which utilise both Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision technologies. The company has also developed its own premium large format, dubbed ‘Prime at AMC’, for those cinemas that aren’t big enough to accommodate an IMAX or Dolby Cinema screen.
IMAX has also been undergoing a marked change in its strategy – with the company having concentrated on growth in China to fuel its bottom line. Unfortunately, profits in the region have been dropping as of late – with the most recent results in 2016 showing a 13% drop. Despite that, IMAX continues its expansion in China, with Wanda Cinema Line, the owners of AMC Theaters, having signed a deal for 150 new screens back in August 2016.