The Chinese box office broke records this year during the annual Lunar New Year’s holiday two weeks ago. The Middle Kingdom turned in a $1.2B box office week, led by local blockbuster sequel Detective Chinatown 3, which contributed $600M to the total. IMAX Theatres enjoyed a handsome share of this box office success, as a result of its 20+ year investment to establish itself as a leading exhibitor in China and other Asian territories. IMAX was among the first to experience the collapse of moviegoing last year when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in China but is now on the leading edge of its recovery. China and many other Asian markets have tamed the outbreak, for the most part, leading to a re-opening of exhibition and re-start of local studio releases.
In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, IMAX’s CEO Rich Gelfond offers his perspective on the prospects ahead for the theatrical experience, his skepticism on Warner Bros.’ day-date strategy for releasing their films, and his expectations for IMAX theatres in both the Chinese and US markets. “People’s perceptions of the future are always wildly exaggerated by the present. I think when the pandemic started, nobody could imagine that it would last this long or change things this radically in such a short period of time. And I think the same thing is going to happen with the reopening, which is what was demonstrated in China.”