Andrew Cripps is the EMEA President at Imax. He sits down with Box Office Insider’s Jim Amos to discuss the company’s recent successes, growth opportunities and where he sees Imax and the large format sector of the business going in the near future.
WHERE DO YOU THINK THE GROWTH AREAS ARE FOR A COMPANY LIKE IMAX?
You know, where I sit I’m based in London so places like Eastern Europe and especially a place like Turkey is a really interesting market; big population, an expanding middle class, disposable income, an interest in western culture. Also, North Africa is interesting along with some of the more traditional markets where, for IMAX, places like France and Germany we’re not highly penetrated at the moment, I believe these are areas for opportunity going forward.
WHAT HAVE BEEN THE ROAD BLACKS TO EXPANSION IN COUNTRIES LIKE FRANCE AND GERMANY?
I think there are a number of things; first of all Imax has had a history in these markets of being successful documentary theatres which never converted to digital and ended up closing, so there is a little bit of a legacy issue. In places like China and Asia as a whole there are a large amount of shopping malls being built and every mall has a brand new multiplex who wants an IMAX. But in Western Europe there aren’t a lot of new builds going on so when you retrofit theatres to IMAX you have a lot of limitations to work with. You’ve got planning regulations and lots of other issues and it’s difficult to fit an IMAX into some of the pre-existing theatres.
ANDREW, TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT LOCALLY PRODUCED FILMS LIKE “STALINGRAD” (opening 2/28 exclusively in IMAX). DO YOU SEE GROWTH IN LOCALLY PRODUCED FILMS THAT ARE IMAX TYPE EVENT MOVIES?
“Stalingrad” is a really interesting example. It’s a really good movie for one thing; it’s a very well made action film that also has a heart. I think it’s an interesting business model in that you go into some of these territories, take France for instance, where 40-45% of all grosses come from local content so it’s a difficult business model if you completely ignore local content. So where the IMAX bread and butter films will always be the Hollywood tent poles, the next Christopher Nolan movie or the latest from J.J. Abrams, as part of our business plan I think it’s opportunistic for us to get into locally produced programming and we’ve done that in France, Japan, South Korea, China and we have even done a Bollywood film, “Dhoom 3”. I think the content is getting more global in nature and you’ll see more and more of that going forward. With a film like “Stalingrad”, IMAX does add something to the experience as visually it’s a spectacular movie.
DO YOU EVER DO ALTERNATIVE CONTENT IN IMAX SCREENS?
We haven’t yet but it’s something we’re looking at very closely. It’s become a serious business, especially here in Western Europe. When you have something like “Doctor Who” here and it did over GBP 2 mil in one day at the box office, while also being shown on live television that’s very impressive. The opera and the ballet sell out regularly in UK theatres as well so it’s become a significant part of the business so it’s something that we’re looking at very seriously along with events like the World Cup as well. But it will all revolve around whether we can bring an IMAX quality presentation on these live events to our screens as well.
FINALLY, I DID WANT TO ASK ABOUT LARGE FORMAT SCREENS. THEY DON’T SEEM TO HAVE GREATLY AFFECTED IMAX GROSSES IN THE STATES AND WAS WONDERING WHAT IT LOOKED LIKE OVERSEAS.
There’s been some penetration, in some countries more than others, and I think there’s a place for them and where an exhibitor successfully markets IMAX it doesn’t seem to have a big impact on our screens. I think it’s interesting in talking to exhibitors who have both PLF screens along with an IMAX screen invariably they say that the IMAX screen sells out first. So I think the consumer is willing to pay a premium as long as you are consistently delivering that premium product.