IMAX, Legendary Entertainment and Universal Pictures are expanding their relationships with a new pact to release up to 15 of the studios’ films in IMAX theaters through 2017. Under the agreement, IMAX will be part of Universal and Legendary’s release strategy for such live-action tentpoles as Dracula Untold (October 2014), Seventh Son (February 2015), Fast & Furious 7 (April 2015), Jurassic World (June 2015), Everest (September 2015), Crimson Peak (October 2015) and Warcraft (March 2016). This is the first multi-picture deal IMAX has made with both studios. It has released recent Universal pics Despicable Me 2, Les Misérables and The Bourne Legacy in the format as well as Legendary’s Godzilla, although that film went through Warner Bros, pre-dating Legendary’s five-year deal with Universal.
In this week’s podcast, Deadline’s executive editor David Lieberman and host David Bloom untangle the latest twists in the giant Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger proposal, as a Senate committee grills Comcast’s “Jedi Master” of a chief lobbyist and Charter prepares a challenge at the TWC annual meeting. The Davids also talk about the very different tone of two just-signed retransmission deals, at least compared to last year’s Time Warner Cable-CBS brawl; how IMAX reduced its stake in China while increasing its influence; and this week’s National Association of Broadcasters conference, where FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler urged broadcasters to think like “tech disruptors” and NAB chief Gordon Smith called for a federal plan for broadcasting.
The stock is up 4.4% in pre-market trading, indicating that investors like the large screen theater company’s $80M transaction with Chinese investment fund CMC Capital Partners and private equity firm FountainVest Partners. The deal should expand IMAX‘s opportunities in one of the film world’s fastest growing markets. The company says it expects the transaction with CMC and FountainVest to lead to an IPO of IMAX China so it can raise funds to continue its growth there. And in a country where personal connections are critical, IMAX touts the opportunity to take advantage of CMC chief Ruigang Li’s “knowledge of the Chinese media and entertainment industry.” IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond says that it “makes sense to bring in Chinese investors to help us better address local market dynamics and further optimize our business in China, including both our core theatre business as well as new business initiatives such as the home theatre joint venture we announced last year with TCL.” IMAX China will pay IMAX a licensing/marketing fee to use the brand, potentially enabling IMAX to cut its capital spending outlays by $15M a year, Stifel analyst Benjamin Mogil estimates. He believes that could enable the company to return cash to shareholders, either through a dividend or by repurchasing shares, and “likely ensures that the company continues to receive favorable treatment regarding film quotas in the region.”
Here’s the release:
Global Showbiz Briefs: ’50 Kisses’ Sets Writer Record; ‘Mysteries Of Laura’ Deepen; ‘Dropped’ Upped In Sweden; More
UK omnibus 50 Kisses is entering the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest roster of co-writers on a feature film. The 51 scribes will gather today at BAFTA headquarters in London for a special screening of the film that beat the previous record holder, 1943’s Forever And A Day. That film had 21 writers including an uncredited Alfred Hitchcock. The British 50 Kisses was produced by the London Screenwriters’ Festival. Two years ago, it invited writers to submit two-page scripts featuring at least one kiss and set on Valentine’s Day. The 50 best scripts were released online with an open invitation for filmmakers to produce them. Ultimately, 127 shorts were made and those were edited down to produce 50 Kisses. The finished product was released on February 13 this year, earning a per-screen average of nearly £9,500. The end credits run for 17 minutes.
Global Showbiz Briefs: Julie Sultan To Run AMBI’s International Sales Unit; ITV Buys Stake In Nordic On-Demand Channel Cirkus; More; More
AMBI Pictures Taps Julie Sultan To Run New International Sales Unit
Julie Sultan has been named as President of Worldwide Sales & Acquisitions at AMBI Distribution Corp, the newly launched international sales division of AMBI Pictures. She will oversee the new company, which represents Beverly Hills-based AMBI’s original productions as well as third-party product from around the world. Sultan has served in senior positions at Lakeshore Entertainment, where she oversaw sales of “Million Dollar Baby,” and the “Underworld” franchise, as well as NBC and Peace Arch Entertainment.
LOS ANGELES – March 20, 2014 – IMAX Corporation (NYSE:IMAX; TSX:IMX) and The Walt Disney Studios, a division of The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS), today announced an agreement to release several of Disney’s upcoming films in IMAX® theatres under an extension of the companies’ long-running relationship.
Under the agreement, IMAX will be part of Disney’s release strategy for its most highly-anticipated live-action tentpole films, including Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier (April 2014), Maleficent (May 2014), Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy (August 2014), and Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron (May 2015), Tomorrowland (May 2015) and Star Wars: Episode VII (December 2015).
The 66,000-square-foot Playa Vista, CA complex will serve as the new West Coast outpost for IMAX, joining corporate headquarters in Toronto, NY and Santa Monica. LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, City Councilmember Mike Bonin and executives from IMAX and developer Lincoln Property Company attended a shovel ceremony today. The plan is to complete construction by the first half of next year, with all 120 employees in IMAX’s Santa Monica offices expected to move to the new digs that will house corporate offices, screening rooms and postproduction facilities. The three-story HQ joins fellow tech biggies in the neighborhood including Facebook, YouTube, Electronic Arts, Sony, Fox Sports and Belkin and the Hercules Studio film stage. Here’s a look at a rendering via design firm Gensler:
Average ticket outlays were slightly lower than in Q2 when they hit $8.38, according to the National Association of Theater Owners. Still, the trade group’s latest number is up 3.7% vs the same period in 2012, making it the biggest year-over-year quarterly jump since early 2010. For the full year, consumers spent an average of $8.13 for a ticket, a new high that’s +2.1% vs 2012. Remember that several factors influence the average price — including how many people pay a premium to see a film in 3D or on an IMAX screen. The Q4 number was expected to be relatively high: The quarter had 3D hits with Warner Bros’ Gravity (80% of its domestic gross came from 3D venues) and The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug, and Disney’s Frozen and Thor: The Dark World. The quarter also had several popular films targeted to adults including Paramount’s The Wolf Of Wall Street and Sony’s American Hustle. Ticket prices for adult-themed films are typically higher than they are for children’s fare.
Gravity leads Britain’s BAFTA nominations which were unveiled earlier this week, and “thanks to overwhelming demand from cinemagoers,” IMAX is bringing it back to UK theaters as of today. The film opened in October last year, and went on to become the highest-grossing IMAX release of 2013 in the UK; it’s IMAX’s seventh biggest release ever in the territory. Greg Foster, CEO of IMAX Entertainment and Senior EVP of IMAX Corp said today, “We couldn’t be happier with the overwhelming success of Gravity and the continued demand we’re seeing from UK cinemagoers to bring it back in IMAX.”
Meanwhile, Gravity has 11 BAFTA nominations, including Best Film and Best British Film. There’s been some consternation this week over its inclusion in the latter category with folks wondering how a U.S. studio-backed movie made the cut. Answer: It was produced by Britain’s David Heyman, shot at Pinewood and Shepperton Studios with a crew of local technicians, visual effects were handled by the UK’s Framestore and director Alfonso Cuaron is a British resident. That was enough for it to pass the requirement for significant British creative involvement qualifying it as British under guidelines set out by the BFI and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. Last year, BAFTA added a sixth title to the British Film category that’s chosen by a jury to ensure the full …
LOS ANGELES – Dec. 9, 2013 – IMAX Corporation (NYSE:IMAX; TSX:IMX) and Sony Pictures Entertainment today announced that The Amazing Spider-Man 2™, the highly anticipated next chapter in the story of Peter Parker, will be digitally re-mastered into the immersive IMAX® 3D format and released in IMAX® theatres. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 will be released in theaters internationally beginning April 16, 2014, and domestically on May 2, 2014.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire has grossed $18 million in IMAX theaters worldwide and $12.6 million in 347 screens in North America since its Friday release. That’s the best three-day domestic opening for November in IMAX history, topping the previous record set by Sony’s Skyfall in November 2012, IMAX said today. The second film in the Hunger Games franchise also led IMAX to its second best overall weekend ever with total worldwide grosses reaching $25.7 million.
UPDATE 6:30 AM PT: IMAX has released full details of its joint venture with TCL, including that their new premium home theater system is expected to launch in China and other select markets in 2015. A full press release follows the earlier story below.
PREVIOUS: IMAX is due to announce later today that it has set up a joint venture with China’s TCL Multimedia Technology Holdings Limited to develop and manufacture $250,000 home theater systems in the booming country. IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond tells The New York Times the decision to partner with TCL was primarily because IMAX expects China to be its largest market. Low production costs were also a factor, but not the driver, he said. China is especially ripe for premium home-entertainment given it does not have a window restriction on the release of films in formats suitable for the systems. Also, despite the quota on foreign movies that are distributed theatrically, the latest Hollywood movies are widely available on DVD and in other formats, which, the NYT says, prompts families “to spend heavily to see them at home in style.” Gelfond said the new systems would not hurt box office. “The cost of this is not at a price point that threatens the theatrical community,” he said. TCL and IMAX have a pre-existing relationship: TCL bought naming rights to Hollywood’s Chinese Theater earlier this year and IMAX has its largest auditorium there. On Monday, IMAX said it had acquired a stake in PRIMA Cinema Inc to expand its home entertainment offering. As part of the deal IMAX will have a five-year window of exclusivity to distribute and resell PRIMA systems in China.
LOS ANGELES, Oct. 28, 2013 — As part of a broader strategy to expand The IMAX Experience® in the home, IMAX Corporation (NYSE: IMAX; TSX: IMX) today announced it has acquired a stake and a significant option position in PRIMA Cinema Inc., whose proprietary systems transmit current theatrical releases from powerhouse studios like Paramount Pictures and Universal Pictures in a highly encrypted, location-sensitive fashion for secure home viewing.
IMAX plans to integrate the PRIMA Cinema technology into the IMAX® Private Theatre and other potential platforms, enhancing the image and sound of the content through its digital re-mastering (IMAX DMR®) process, which enables IMAX customers to access current theatrical releases of the highest possible quality.
Gravity just became IMAX‘s highest-grossing second weekend title ever, but French moviegoers won’t get to see it in the format when the Warner Bros hit bows in France on October 23rd. That’s because Amélie helmer Jean-Pierre Jeunet‘s 3D The Young And Prodigious T.S. Spivet has staked out the only slots at the country’s five IMAX locations. Spivet comes out on October 16th, a week before Gravity, and is expected to stay in place until Thor: The Dark World moves in on October 30th. So how did a film that lends itself so completely to the IMAX experience find itself without a window in France?
Gaumont, the studio behind Jeunet’s English-language Spivet, has a deal with IMAX for the film to be released locally and internationally in its immersive format. The pact follows IMAX’s collaboration with Pathé’s 2012 French comedy Houba! On The Trail Of The Marsupilami, as the company looks to work increasingly with local filmmakers. Spivet initially had an October 23rd release – a similar date to Jeunet’s last two films, Micmacs and A Very Long Engagement, which coincidentally were released by Warner Bros France in 2009 and 2004, respectively. Warner Bros for its part had originally been eyeing a November 6th Gravity release in France, but in February this year moved onto October 23rd. Spivet then also moved, to October 16th. Because IMAX was committed to Spivet, and doesn’t split screens in France, Gravity was effectively squeezed out. Ultimately, I’m told Warner Bros preferred sticking to its planned release strategy rather than co-opt it for just the five IMAX screens. (The latter half of October in France is hotly-contested release real estate in any format. Among the recent hits to lay claim, box office and/or prestige-wise, are Asterix & Obelix: God Save Britannia, Amour, The Artist, Paranormal Activity 2 & 3, The Adventures Of Tintin and Little White Lies.)
Listen to (and share) episode 53 of our audio podcast Deadline Big Media With David Lieberman. Deadline’s executive business editor talks with host David Bloom about Carl Icahn’s latest billion-dollar tweet, this one involving a massive Apple share buyback proposal; what’s causing IMAX to stumble; the possible impacts of the federal government shutdown for media & entertainment companies; and Twitter’s now-official IPO and the lessons it might learn from Facebook’s missteps last year.
It would be too simplistic to say that the enthusiastic reviews for Gravity are solely responsible for the 1.4% uptick in IMAX shares this morning — ending this week’s startling 10% drop. But the film was poised to provide a “noticeable jolt” to investor expectations, leading many to “quickly shift their attention” from the disappointing Q3 results to potential strength in Q4 and beyond, B. Riley analyst Eric Wold says this morning. He and other IMAX bulls say that the market overreacted to softer-than-expected box office sales in Q3 where family releases including Universal’s Despicable Me 2 and Disney/Pixar’s Monsters University struggled to keep up with last year’s fanboy hits including Warner Bros’ The Dark Knight Rises and Sony’s The Amazing Spider-Man — especially after Warner Bros delayed 300: Rise Of An Empire to next year. Over the last week analysts’ consensus forecast for IMAX’s Q3 earnings fell to 7 cents a share from a dime. But “trying to judge the IMAX story on a single quarter’s movie slate is short-sighted,” Wold says. He became enthusiastic about the company “based entirely on the improvements we will begin to see next year, and not only any expectations around Q3 trends.” MKM Partners’ Eric Handler also came to the company’s defense. “There’s going to be quarter-to-quarter volatility at the box office,” he says. But as IMAX expands in developing markets including China, Russia and the Middle East “there’s a lot …
UPDATE, 7:35 AM: IMAX‘s stock price is down about 6% in early trading after Wedbush Securities’ Michael Pachter lowered his earnings estimates, citing disappointing Q3 box office sales. Sony’s Elysium, Warner Bros’ Pacific Rim, and Universal’s Riddick “likely did not perform at the levels we initially expected,” he says this morning. That led him to chop his revenue estimate for the quarter by 9.4% to $58M, with his earnings forecast down 53% to 7 cents per share. But he’s holding firm on his estimates for Q4 until he has a better handle on how audiences will respond to expected hits led by Warner Bros’ Gravity and The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug, and Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.
PREVIOUS, WEDNESDAY PM: Today was at least the second day this week that an analyst has questioned the large-screen movie company’s growth prospects — and it contributed to a 4.4% drop in the stock price.
LOS ANGELES – Sept. 30, 2013 – IMAX Corporation (NYSE:IMAX; TSX:IMX), in partnership with Sony Pictures Entertainment, a division of Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE), today announced that Captain Phillips will be digitally re-mastered into the immersive IMAX® format and released in select IMAX® theatres worldwide beginning October 11.
LOS ANGELES – Sept. 19, 2013 – IMAX Corporation (NYSE:IMAX; TSX:IMX), along with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. and Sony Pictures Entertainment, today announced that the upcoming film RoboCop will be digitally re-mastered into the immersive IMAX® format and released into IMAX® theatres worldwide beginning Feb. 7.