IMAX CEO Rich Gelfond
Shares in IMAX, the Canadian-American film technology supplier whose U.S. business has been hurt by fallout from COVID-19, got a lift today from a healthy box office in China during the country’s long New Year holiday.
IMAX’s New York-traded shares rose by 6.5% to a 13-month high of $19.85. That came after shares in IMAX China, its Hong Kong-traded subsidiary that operates in the world’s most populous country, soared by 31% on Tuesday to HK$18.63 on the company’s holiday gains.
IMAX enjoyed to its best-ever opening weekend for the Chinese New Year holiday this year, grossing $25 million through Feb. 14 as the country kicked off a key box office period, the company said in a statement on Sunday. (See statement here.)
Overall, China’s New Year box office revenue this year topped 10 billion yuan, or $1.5 billion, as of Tuesday evening, a figure surpassing half of the country’s total revenue of 2020, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported on Tuesday, citing China Movie Data Information Network. “Detective Chinatown 3,” an IMAX-filmed comedy whose release was delayed by a year in connection with the COVID-19 outbreak, led the way, earning 3.2 billion yuan since its debut on Feb. 12, Xinhua said.
The film’s success is giving a boost to China billionaire Wang Jianlin’s mainland film flagship Wanda Film, which released the picture. Wanda’s Shanghai-traded shares rose 4.4% to 22.60 yuan on Feb. 11, the last trading day before the Chinese New Year holiday, which ends on Feb. 17. Wang, whose assets also include real estate and a stake in AMC Entertainment, was worth an estimated $15 billion on the Forbes Real-Time Billionaires List today. Both Wanda and AMC suffered in connection with COVID in 2020; though China encouraged residents not to travel during the New Year, its economy – the world’s second biggest – has largely recovered from the pandemic.
IMAX has ridden a boom in China’s entertainment spending in the past two decades, building a theater network larger than in the U.S.
The company started doing business in China in the 1990s by producing science-related documentaries used as education and learning tools; success came in part by working closely with government partners. IMAX’s first customer in the country was a Shanghai government organization; its first picture was “China: The Panda Adventure.” (See earlier profile here.)
I’m a senior editor and the Shanghai bureau chief of Forbes magazine. Now in my 20th year at Forbes, I compile the Forbes China Rich List. I was previously a