IMAX Sets 10 Film Fund With China Media Capital

SHANGHAI – IMAX China has partnered with state-backed private equity firm China Media Capitalto launch a new film fund.

The fund will target Mandarin-language movies and is to be involved in a minimum of 10 pictures, the two companies announced Tuesday in Shanghai. Initial capitalization is $50 million.

IMAX China is a Hong Kong-based, majority-owned subsidiary of IMAX Corporation, established by IMAX specifically to oversee the expansion of IMAX’s business throughout Greater China. CMC last year announced that it had bought a 10% stake in the unit. In late May IMAX China confirmed plans for a separate stock listing in Hong Kong.

“The intent of the China Film Fund is to leverage favorable current trends in the Chinese market, strengthening the IMAX brand and capitalizing on relationships across studio, exhibitor and local distribution partners, as well as content creators,” IMAX said in a statement.

“The fund also is meant to support an existing slate of successful Chinese IMAX DMR product including such past titles as The Monkey King and Dragon Blade, and leverage CMC’s experience within China’s content-creation industry,” said IMAX CEO Richard L. Gelfond. “This fund is the next step in that evolution as it allows us to join with our good partner CMC and work closely with the country’s top filmmakers to bring to Chinese audiences and to export to international audiences top-quality Mandarin content.”

“What will Chinese films look like with larger production budgets? More like Hollywood blockbusters, or more niche like ‘Wolf Totem’?”  Gelfond asked, while speaking at the Film Finance Forum in Shanghai.

He spoke of the process of globalization in the film industry and suggested that the tide is shifting more towards China. “There is a tremendous opportunity for Chinese voices to be heard throughout the global entertainment platform.”

“The Chinese industry has the opportunity to make the studio of the future, not the studio of the future. It will be driven by technology and innovation. Globalization has weakened the traditional barriers about where, whom and how of film making,” he said, in prepared remarks.

“My wish for the Chinese film industry is that it avoids some of the mistakes of the Hollywood industry, and not just raise costs for the sake of raising costs, but to put the money on the screen,” Gelfond said in response to questions.

IMAX China has some 200 screens in current commercial operation in China and a further 225 in backlog, Gelfond said. Citing securities regulations Gelfond avoided all comment on the IMAX China IPO.

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