Imax CEO Rich Gelfond chats acquisitions
Imax is betting on a future where it's less reliant on the box office and more focused on the living room, CEO Rich Gelfond tells Axios.
Why it matters: The theatrical business is facing an existential crisis amid the rise of streaming services, where moviegoing will probably never be the same as it was pre-pandemic.
The latest: Imax's recent acquisition of tech firm Ssimwave, whose clients include Disney, Paramount and Warner Bros. Discovery, puts it right in the middle of the streaming ecosystem.
- While the first move will be to grow the Canada-based company's presence outside the U.S., Gelfond said acquiring Ssimwave's people is what drove the deal.
The big picture: Imax, best known for its giant-screen projection technology and cameras, is trying to become a player in the home entertainment market.
- Last year, Imax worked with Disney+ to offer most of its Marvel films in Imax Enhanced format, a version of its big screen tech adapted for home viewing.
- "My ultimate dream has been, particularly in the home, to make a lot of better images and create higher quality using software," Gelfond says. "And if you want to dream, like, really big, eventually develop a chip that goes into TV sets — or maybe a software — and it uprises everything at an affordable cost."
By the numbers: Moviegoing has rebounded, but attendance remains weak compared to pre-pandemic numbers.
- Compared to the same period in 2019, year-to-date U.S. box office revenues fell 34% to $6.1 billion, according to Box Office Mojo.
- "I think [the] pandemic, if it taught us one thing, was we need to diversify as far as the content," Gelfond says. "So in the quarter that just closed, 20-30% of our box office was with foreign language."
- Imax has also expanded outside of showing movies by livestreaming concerts and industry events such as Q&As with directors like Steven Spielberg.
What's next: The media's fascination with the metaverse has led Imax to dip its toe back into virtual reality.
- "We're about to sign on with a fairly significant client for how to integrate in VR," he says.