China box-office document reveals international pent-up demand for motion pictures

Imax broke its box office records over the weekend of the New Year celebrations in China and the results predict what will happen when more US theaters resume operations this summer, CEO Rich Gelfond told CNBC on Tuesday.

The company, which produces immersive movie experiences, said it grossed $ 25 million between Friday and Sunday, up 45% from its pre-pandemic record.

“It tells you [that] If it’s safe to go outside and people want to go, run to the movies, “said Gelfond, who appeared on Closing Bell after the deal on Wall Street ended.

Detective Chinatown 3, a comedy adventure postponed from the release of Lunar New Year last year, captured a large portion of Imax ticket sales during the three-day period. The film grossed $ 23.5 million, the best results Imax has ever seen for a Chinese film. The action films “A Writer’s Odyssey” and “New Gods: Nezha Reborn” have also helped Imax hit both gross admissions and gross sales highs.

Coming from the news, Imax shares rose more than 6% on Tuesday, the best day since November. The stock closed at $ 19.85, up more than 5% after hours.

Imax took in more than 1 million people in cinemas in China on Friday, the best one-day attendance ever recorded. The results come despite capacity constraints that persist in entertainment businesses in China. The $ 25 million Imax brought in at the box office was better than the comparable opening week of 2019 that preceded the coronavirus pandemic.

Most theaters in China have a 75% capacity limit, while parts of the country with higher broadcasts of Covid-19 are limited to 50%. US theater restrictions vary by state. Limitations range from 25% capacity in Minnesota to 50% in Indiana to 100% in Alaska. This is based on data held by the National Association of Theater Owners.

The seven-day New Year holiday ends on Wednesday. Theaters in China closed around this time last year when the country shut down in response to the fast-spreading virus discovered in Wuhan city, Hubei province in late 2019.

The movie frenzy was fueled by China’s traditional travel season, which has largely been suspended due to coronavirus restrictions. Millions of time spent in the cinema with scrapped travel plans.

Gelfond said Imax expected strong participation in China over the weekend.

“I think the only thing you can say is the pent-up demand that people just get tired of sitting on their couches and watching streaming or whatever else they’ve been doing,” he said. “I think they are just happy to get out and I think that gives the rest of the world a guess.”

In the midst of the pandemic, Imax’s 2020 sales fell 74% from the first three quarters of last year through September. The company is expected to report fourth quarter and full year 2020 performance next month.

Gelfond said in December that the release of US films in 2021, including a number of films postponed from first releases last year, would be an “embarrassment of fortune” for Imax if the country’s theaters closed Should be opened at the beginning of the year.

According to the online ticketing platform Maoyan Entertainment, mainland China posted holiday week sales of 6.77 billion yuan, or $ 1.05 billion, on Tuesday. That figure surpassed the record 5.9 billion yuan in the same period of 2019.

Since the theaters reopened in June, box office revenues have increased. Coronavirus cases have declined sharply in countries like China, Australia and South Korea, and movie ticket sales have increased.

Global movie ticket sales decreased 70% year over year in 2020. Ticket sales in the Asia-Pacific region accounted for approximately 51% of global sales, up from 41% in 2019, based on information from Comscore and Gower Street. The US and Canadian box office sales accounted for just 18% of sales in 2020, compared to 30% in 2019.

– Reuters contributed to this report.

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