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.