More domestic films enter IMAX market, competing with Hollywood
Published: May 16, 2012 08:35 PM Updated: May 17, 2012 07:07 PM

While The Avengers currently occupies most IMAX cinemas across China, the cards will soon be flipped: the first-ever Chinese IMAX 3D film, Flying Swords of Dragon Gate will be screened in North American theaters this September, according to IMAX Corporation in Beijing.

Flying Swords is the company's biggest partnership with Chinese studios and directors, since the IMAX versions of Feng Xiaogang's After Shock and Han Sanping's The Founding of A Republic.

"There will be more Chinese special effects and action movies coming out," said Rich Gelfond, the chief executive of IMAX.

"When you look at what makes foreign movies and Hollywood blockbusters popular at box offices, it's the technology and action. But Chinese films [don't have a history of] doing that. They are [primarily] story-driven and are often low-budget movies."

The partnership behind Flying Swords was a great success, released in 61 IMAX screens in China, and earning $10.6 million. Jackie Chan's upcoming new film CZ12 has already secured its partnership with IMAX.

"With the growing number of screens and theaters, Chinese filmmakers are [trying to understand] how to get through to audiences with special effect films. We released Flying Swords last year, and it was very successful," said Gelfond.

"[Besides that], three to five movies are in process for the future. We will see more," Gelfond said. "Also, I met some Chinese film makers and talked about 3D technology and IMAX cameras. Chinese and American directors can collaborate on big budget and special effects movies."  

Though the US is currently the biggest movie market in the world, China is one of the fastest growing markets. IMAX now owns 68 screens in China, predicted to hit 100 by the end of this year.

Other Chinese companies are rushing to get a share of the market. China Film Group has launched DMAX, a competing big screen system with a cheaper cost. It is reported that a total of 15 DMAX screens will open domestically this year.

"There is competition everywhere. There's always a market for less expensive experiences. Audiences know the difference between IMAX and other entertainment solutions. We can focus on quality and do the best we can," said Gelfond.

"We have been in this market for 45 years. I am not worried," he added.