Premium Large Format group IMAX has agreed a deal with AMC-owned circuits Odeon and Nordic Cinema Group (NCG) to more than doubling the number of screens within these circuits from 19 to 47 (3 are already announced but not yet open). The deal, worth around $20m to IMAX and its largest European contract, is for 25 new sites up to 10 of which are in the UK, to add to the existing 15. Sites will also open in Germany, Spain and Italy. The deal is the traditional revenue-sharing agreement between exhibitor and IMAX, which makes up 58% of its agreements with commercial multiplex theatres. AMC is owned by Wanda, and forms part of the world’s largest exhibition group. At last count (end 2016), the total screen count exceeded 14,000, twice as large as its nearest rival. AMC is the overseas vehicle of Wanda.
Europe is a target growth market for IMAX, with most attention recently on its growth in China. The balance between its North American presence and International is clearly moving in the direction of international growth. Of the 1,074 screens on which The Fate and the Furious will open this weekend (IMAX’s widest ever release), 386 are in N America and 688 are International (of which 392 are in China). However, the European element of IMAX has lagged behind its growth elsewhere with only 14% of IMAX screens (commercial multiplex only) based in Europe.
This deal is also interesting because it is the first major deal since AMC acquired Odeon and NCG, and shows the intent of the new group to be aggressive towards premium cinema and investment as a whole. The fact that it has chosen to invest in new IMAX sites rather than exhibitor-branded PLF could be significant too, suggesting a belief that IMAX represents the best way forward for its premium presence. AMC also intends to spend up to $15m on re-vamping Odeon’s flagship site in Leicester Square, London. This all suggests that investment and re-energising is now the order of the day, for Odeon at least.