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IMAX brought in laser technology into the country at the end of last year, which uses dual 4K projectors, 12-channel so...
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IMAX triples its network in India; plans to expand further to Tier II and III cities

IMAX brought in laser technology into the country at the end of last year, which uses dual 4K projectors, 12-channel so...
  • IMAX currently has 22 theatres in Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore and Delhi.
  • India being one of the most important markets for its market size and social media presence, IMAX is now upping its game by launching newer technologies and expanding its reach further into Tier II and III cities.
  • As IMAX deploys its Laser Technology in India with PVR, we speak to John Schreiner, Senior VP - Theatre Development, about its logistics, marketing plan, vision for expansion, and growth trajectory.
  • IMAX has already installed two laser systems in Mumbai and Delhi last year.
IMAX has nearly tripled its theatre network in India over the last three years, making it apparent how critical the Indian market for the company is, globally. Expanding its network further in the country and upping its quality, IMAX has partnered with PVR Cinema to deploy its laser technology in Forum Mall, Bangalore and Palazzo Mall, Chennai later this year.

IMAX brought in laser technology into the country at the end of last year, which uses dual 4K projectors, 12-channel sound and a laser light source instead of a prism. It delivers a higher resolution output, with sharper and brighter images, and maintains a deeper contrast.

IMAX entered into a strategic partnership with PVR back in 2011 to launch its first theatre in Bangalore. Today, it has 22 theatres, 20 operational and two that are just an approval away. The next phase of expansion for IMAX will be in Tier II and III cities.

Telling us how important the Indian market is for IMAX globally, John Schreiner, Senior VP - Theatre Development, said, “India is such an avid movie-going market and consumers love great experiences. Therefore, our theatres have been very successful here, it is a strategic market for us and we hope to grow that number quite dramatically. We continuously work towards finding the right ingredients to bring IMAX -- not only to the major metros, but to the second and third Tier markets. We know there are a lot of fans in these markets who want that experience because they interact with us on social media. India is one of the most active markets for us globally, in terms of social media engagement.”

For IMAX, Russia is the largest market, with 42 theatres. However, population-wise, India is a larger market than Russia and Schreiner says there is a huge room for growth here and it is hoping to case its net wider in the coming years.

Marketing Strategy

Interestingly, IMAX’s Executive Vice President, Global Brand & Creative, Denny Tu used to work with Sky TV in the UK, making sure people stay at home and watch content on their smaller screens. Now at IMAX, he encourages the same audience to come out for pop-corn crunching, and jump-out-of-your-seat experience, which is what every filmmaker originally desired for.

Sharing how IMAX gets consumers to step out of the ‘Netflix and Chill’ zone, Schreiner said, “We have launched a whole new brand strategy and campaign, which helps produce assets that encourage consumers to come out for content and experience it in the best way possible. That is also getting translated here in India. We, as a company, are highly regarded in India and we will continue to interact with our Indian fans on social media, this will help us create more successful theatres in India. Apart from that, we will be bringing more local content on IMAX screens, this is our holistic approach to growth here.”

Growth of OTT a threat?

The window between theatrical release and television premieres is decreasing, which is threatening the theatre businesses world over. However, Schreiner says this is the best time to be working with IMAX because content production has reached its tipping point.

IMAX stands for higher quality and an immersive experience, whose network is only going to grow from here, believes Schreiner. “The window is decreasing and the pressure from various stakeholders is increasing but we view that as an opportunity because you can’t experience IMAX anywhere else. Studios are making grander spectacles for movie releases and we do well with that.”

IMAX has also partnered with a few streaming platforms such as Apple for ‘Beastie Boys’ documentary. Schreiner says they will continue to experiment and bring newer content for its audience -- to expand its base.

“This is the golden age of content production -- with all the studios and streaming houses, there hasn’t been so much content produced globally before than today. There is an opportunity for IMAX to take advantage of that and that is going to be a driving element for our future growth,” adds Schreiner.

Globally, its mantra is to enhance customer experience. It is present in 82 countries and has 1700 theatres around the world.

Annual Performance

In the first half of 2019, IMAX theatres generated more than $7.76 million at the box office in India, up by 18% over the first half of 2018. The economic slow-down did not affect the company in India and even globally, it was a pink season for IMAX. In fact, Schrenier says that economic slowdown brings an uptick in consumer sentiment for the cinema industry.

“Last year the performance of IMAX across the world was record-breaking. We had billion dollars in the box office, across all our networks. And in India, not only IMAX, but the cinema industry was strong and resilient as well. We have noticed this globally, whenever there is an economic slowdown, affordable luxuries tend to be very resilient because consumers may not go and buy a TV or a car, but they will take their family or partners to watch a movie,” says Schreiner.

Schrenier has been a part of IMAX for 19 years now but the content industry is constantly evolving, which makes him feel like ‘he has worked with three different companies.’ He joined IMAX when it was selling film projectors to museums and educational institutions. Then they added Hollywood movies and transitioned to digital projection from films. Shrenier believes that the industry is about to enter another transition phase and he feels excited to be a part of it, and witness it change every day.

Going forward, Schrenier will help IMAX focus on taking advantage of the golden age of content production, invest in newer technologies to enhance customer experience, and while they are at it, help all of its partners flourish together.
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