IMAX will add 35 new theaters in China and South Korea as part of a joint venture with South Korean theater chain CJ CGV Holdings, the companies said Monday.
The deal substantially increases the big screen company's presence in Asia, which has become a key driver of box office revenue. Last year, China surpassed Japan to become the second largest market for movies in the world. Analysts predict that by 2020, it may eclipse the United States as the dominant source of box office revenue.
China boasts a massive population and a rising middle class -- two qualities seen as crucial to fostering a climate of movie-going. The IMAX format is seen as critical to Hollywood's success in the region. Last year, China loosened restrictions on the number of foreign films it imports. It now allows local exhibitors to show 34 foreign films a year, although a substantial portion must be displayed in 3-D and IMAX.
The deal with CJ CGV Holdings calls for 30 IMAX theaters to be installed across China as well as five theaters in Korea. As of March, IMAX had 133 theaters open in China and 117 slated for construction. It has released ten local-language films in the region.