Imax to boost 3D cash

Imax unveiled news at the World Economic Forum in Davos that it will be stepping up its investment in its speciality cinemas in order to show more 3D movies. Imax says it will open another 100 screens this year, and build its portfolio of theatres to about 600 (from today’s 350) over the next three to four years.

Imax raised a total of $50m in fresh funding last May and used the cash to open up 45 new venues during the second-half of 2008, up from the more usual 30 a year. Imax is looking to ride the crest of a 3D wave out of Hollywood with seven major new 3D films, including DreamWorks Animation’s hot property Monsters vs Aliens, a 3D trailer for which was shown during Sunday evening’s SuperBowl football game. Imax says it will show up to 10 movies in 3D at its theatres, up from 7 in 2008.

“With so much digital product available, we become one of the only solutions for the studios,” CEO Rich Gelfond told the Financial Times. “The percentage of the 3D box office which we capture will certainly be higher than we thought it would be a year or so ago.”

The plan includes big-screen adaptations of Alan Moore's graphic novel "The Watchmen," a tale about ex-superheros in an alternate America; "Avatar," James Cameron's first feature film since "Titanic"; and "Lost" creator J.J. Abrams' much anticipated reboot of the legendary Star Trek franchise focusing on the exploits of Captain James T. Kirk and Mr. Spock.

The financial benefits certainly look good. Imax says it took 14% of the US box office for The Day The Earth Stood Still despite only having some 1% of the US screens, and says consumers are happy to pay a 30% premium to view movies on its giant screens. The Imax version of The Dark Knight, for example, took in $60m at the box office. Imax’s normal take is about 12.5% of the box office profits.