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IMAX and AMC Sign 25-Theater Agreement for Europe

Variety logo Variety 4/11/2017 Robert Mitchell
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LONDON – AMC Theaters and IMAX Corp. have signed a new joint revenue-sharing arrangement which will see the premium large-screen format installed in an additional 25 AMC-owned cinemas across Europe. The deal is the largest single European agreement in IMAX’s history and more than doubles AMC’s current IMAX footprint in Europe to a total of 47 theaters.

The deal was announced Tuesday by IMAX CEO Richard L. Gelfond and AMC CEO Adam Aron. Gelfond said he and Aron finalized the agreement the previous day. The new IMAX theaters will be installed across AMC-owned Odeon Cinemas Group and Nordic Cinema Group in the U.K., Germany, Italy, Spain and Scandinavia, turning AMC into IMAX’s largest exhibition partner in Europe.

“Europe is a region with tremendous long-term growth potential,” said Gelfond. “We believe this agreement, which is a direct result of our strong per-screen averages in the U.K. and Germany, will enhance our ability to replicate this success and expand our presence across Europe – particularly in under-penetrated territories like Germany, Italy, Spain and Scandinavia.”

Aron and Gelfond said that 10 sites across the U.K. and Ireland, Germany, Spain and Italy have already been identified for the new theaters, but eventually all the markets served by Odeon/UCI and Nordic Cinema Group will host one of the new giant screens. Aron said it was possible that 10 of the 25 new theaters would be installed in Britain alone. The new installations are expected to be completed in about three years, with the first sites expected to launch this year.

Aron said AMC, which is owned by Chinese conglomerate Wanda Dalian Group, was “committed to modernizing the theater circuit in Europe” in a similar manner to what it had done with its circuit in the U.S., with plans to invest “hundreds of millions of dollars.”

“We looked at cinema-going in Europe and decided it could be much nicer for consumers than it is today,” he said. The upgraded experience would include more comfortable reclining seating; concession stands offering greater variety and better-quality products, including alcohol where allowed; and technological advancements such as IMAX.

“AMC operates in 14 countries in Europe, so we will take IMAX to as many countries as it can be supported in,” Aron said.

Gelfond told reporters the one thing that had frustrated him in his 23 years as CEO of IMAX was that the brand had not been able to fully penetrate Europe. The brand has grown from 88 theaters to 217 across Europe in the past five years, but is still well behind markets like China, which boasts about 800 IMAX theaters either in place or set for installation. Some European markets have seen very little take-up to date, with Germany currently operating just three IMAX theaters.

AMC acquired the Odeon/UCI chain, encompassing 244 sites across seven countries, from Terra Firmer in November last year. Its acquisition of the 118-theater Nordic Cinema Group, announced in January, was completed March 28.

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