Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Hoyts and Imax see the bigger picture

THE Hoyts cinema and global cinema group Imax have joined forces to open a series of large-format Imax screens in Hoyts locations.

Three new screens are being built at the Hoyts centres at Sydney's Moore Park, Maribyrnong in Melbourne and Cannington in Perth, with a fourth due to open in Melbourne next year.

The joint venture will officially launch on Boxing Day, when an iMax version of the remake of the 1951 science-fiction movie, The Day The Earth Stood Still, will open at all three locations.

The partnership is part of a global push for Imax, which is expanding in the US, Britain, Japan and Austria, as well as Australia, according to Larry O'Reilly, executive vice-president of theatre development for the New York and Toronto-based company.

Key to its immediate growth is a push to show more re-mastered Hollywood blockbusters in Imax and 3D formats, rather than the documentary-style films on which the business was built.

"We're moving to a new business model where we hope to have a major Hollywood blockbuster every four weeks," Mr O'Reilly said.

For Hoyts, the partnership represents a bid by private equity investor Pacific Equity Partners to increase the yield on the company's assets.

PEP bought Hoyts from West Australian Newspapers and James Packer's Publishing & Broadcasting Ltd a year ago for $440 million.

Hoyts chief executive Delfin Fernandez said the company was making a "considerable investment" to convert the theatres to Imax technology, including refurbishing the interiors.

Other Imax films Hoyts will screen this year include Monsters vs Aliens in 3D, Transformers 2 and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

"Hoyts has invested heavily in all areas of the business over the last 12 months," Mr Fernandez said. "We recently launched our new website. Likewise mobile ticketing is a first for both Hoyts and the industry, so our consumers can not only view session times through their mobile phones, but can actually purchase Hoyts tickets through their handsets," he said.

The company has also launched thehalfpipe, which it is billing as the world's first bean bag cinema.

In Australia, the box office is on track for another year of growth, with takings tracking 2 per cent ahead of 2007 for the year to October.

Advertising revenues rose 3.4 per cent in the six months to June.

But the industry's conversion to digital, which will reduce film print costs, is progressing slowly.

"Imax cinemas are all digital," Mr Fernandez said. "Hoyts have a number of digital projectors but the large majority are still 35 mm projectors."

The Hoyts partnership is expected to boost Imax's advertising revenues, helping it to move from a movie sponsorship arrangement to more traditional advertising.

The launch of 3D films has been a large part of Imax's growth since The Polar Express was released in 2004 in Imax 3D at the same time as the 2D version.

"3D is really big in Imax," Mr O'Reilly said.

"We have done equally well with major 2D titles because the filmmakers have worked with us to make the 2D version really special."

Source:The Australian


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