* Signs JV with S.Korean operator CJ CGV Co
* Says CJ CGV to upgrade existing four locations
* Imax shares hit 9-year high
(Recasts; adds details, analyst comments, updates share
By Ashutosh Joshi
BANGALORE, March 10 Imax Corp IMX.TO IMAX.O
agreed to form a joint venture with a South Korean theater
exhibitor to operate up to 15 new theaters in the country as
the giant-screen movie operator seeks to expand its presence in
The agreement with CJ CGV Co Ltd was signed following the
success of the exhibitor's five existing Imax locations in
South Korea, where the current 3D release of the blockbuster
movie "Avatar" has generated more than $6.5 million, Imax said.
"It is a big market opportunity out there (in Asia) for the
success of Imax," Craig-Hallum Capital analyst Mark Argento
told Reuters by phone.
In December, Imax, known for digitally remastering
Hollywood blockbusters, said it was in talks with at least five
film companies in China. [ID:nTOE5B6073]
Some of the big movies last year created lot of incremental
demand for Imax's products and the international market offers
natural growth opportunities, the analyst said.
"We expect to see more type of such deals going forward,"
The deal with CJ CGV will add 10 new joint venture
locations in the major cities in South Korea, and has an option
to increase that number to 15.
Brigantine Advisors analyst Steven Frankel said Imax may
not follow a similar pattern to expand in China.
"I think in China there isn't sufficient infrastructure
around in reporting of box office receipts to form joint
ventures. So, they have been selling equipments in China,"
Imax, which will report its fourth-quarter earnings on
Thursday, said it has been seeing increasing demand in South
Korea, and the rollout of its new locations is expected to
begin later this year.
"We expect the company could grow in excess of 30 percent
in 2010, which is a combination of more theaters, larger
installed base of Imax theaters and better performance, more
and more revenue growth at box office per theater," analyst
Imax said that separately, CJ CGV will upgrade four of its
existing Imax film-based locations to the company's digital
Imax shares were up about 1 percent, or 14 Canadian cents,
at C$16.24 Wednesday afternoon on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
They hit a high of C$16.63 earlier in the day.
(Reporting by Ashutosh Joshi in Bangalore; Editing by Ratul
Ray Chaudhuri, Anne Pallivathuckal)