IMAX signed agreements with two cinema chains to open nine of its premium-format theaters in India, the company announced Thursday. That gives it a total of 25 under contract on top of the 15 currently open, nearly twice as large of a footprint as it had last year. Imax has signed on for 14 theaters in 2018 alone.
IMAX has played a significant role in helping to drive the Chinese box office forward in recent years, as its premium experiences have drawn bigger crowds at higher price points. As of the end of last year, IMAX had 1,370 screens worldwide, with 544 of those in Greater China (and 309 more in the backlog). With some uncertainly about the future of that market given Hollywood-China tensions and IMAX’s longstanding partnership with Wanda Group, which is tightening its belt, India is a natural place to look for more international growth.
And IMAX has already had some success in India with local films it has remastered in its large screen format. Last year’s “Baahubali 2: The Conclusion,” which is the highest-grossing film in India, was the first Telugu-language IMAX film and also set box office records with its Hindi and Tamil versions. “Padmaavat,” a Hindi-language film released in January, was the first ever Indian film released in IMAX 3D and became a huge commercial success despite being banned in certain regions. It’s no surprise IMAX would want to place a bigger bet on India given that recent track record.