Last Updated: 06.52 PM, Jan 12, 2023
Following a slow down in its India business due to the covid-19 pandemic, IMAX Corp., which develops immersive cinema technologies and manufacturers cameras and projection systems, seeks to touch the 100-screen mark in five years in India.
At present, 23 IMAX theatres operate in India. It will add six screens in 2023. In 2020, the Canadian cinema firm had set out to achieve the goal by 2025.
IMAX will partner local studios and producers, and will float a programme to promote the use of IMAX cameras to shoot big-ticket movies.
IMAX offers 70-mm motion picture film format, and projection system, wherein screen image width is greater than the height of a screen.
In 2013, IMAX and Yash Raj Films had partnered to screen Dhoom 3 and Shekhar Kapur’s Paani, which was later shelved. Recognizing the importance of screening local content in India, and not just Hollywood movies in premium formats, IMAX is looking at enhancing homegrown output and even tied up for hits such as Ponniyin Selvan-1 and Brahmastra.
“Our strategy of doing Hollywood films was a good, but it limited. Many people want to watch films in their local languages, they want to watch the kind of films they’re used to. So I think that’s going to be one of the keys to breaking this market open,” Richard Gelfond, chief executive officer, IMAX, said in an interview.
“It’s inevitable that we will do deals with some larger studios as time goes by. The other thing we would really like to do is to accelerate our camera programme since we’ve developed specific digital cameras. We have met some studios and filmmakers and are in an early stage to explore ways to partner some Indian companies in helping us manage the camera programme in India. Ideally, I would like to find a company that will help us roll out faster.”
Gelfond said covid-led disruptions had slowed its global expansion plans, including for India. “Five years ago, I didn’t think there will be a pandemic that would close entire countries down for three years. Not just in India, but globally, out-of-home entertainment was shut, and slowed things down. There were also side effects of covid: mall development and moviemaking slowed and you couldn’t release films, and sets were closed . And if you think of India, theatres opened in March-April of last year.” Gelfond said these were primary impediments, but India was always a challenging due to government permits, licensing and regulations.
To be sure, covid has forced IMAX to reexamine its strategy. “In 2019, 2% of our box office in India was from local Indian content. In 2022, it rose to 30%,” Gelfond said.
The firm expects to release 10-12 local films in 2023 such as the Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Pathaan and Prabhas’ mythological film Adipurush.
“IMAX is a very exclusive solution that aims at getting the best onescreen experience, and is not a multiplex. So if we had 100 movies a year, that will not be feasible in the context of how we operate,” Gelfond said explaining the relatively low output for IMAX screens.
Experts say some of IMAX’s bets may pay off. Film lovers are getting used to the convenience of watching multi-language content from within the comforts of their homes, theatres will have to lure them back through luxury formats such as plush auditoriums, larger and high-tech screens, as well as customized menus. It will obviously be at a higher ticket price, which at least a section of the audience will be willing to pay, they added.
“We take upfront payment, and a percentage of box office, from the exhibitor and a piece from studios. Putting an IMAX really helps the theatre brand and it doesn’t seem to take away people despite a higher price,” Gelfond said.