Banner Year for Giant Screens

The total number of large format (LF) cinema screens increased by around 12.0 per cent to reach 475 worldwide in 2008, against 421 in 2007. There were a total of 61 new screen openings, all of which can be attributed to leading manufacturer Imax, against just seven which shuttered—incidentally, the highest number of openings since 1999.

Digital Imax systems accounted for the majority, 75 per cent, of net new screen openings. Just six of the 46 new digital Imax systems installed were international locations, with exhibition partners Hoyts in Australia (three systems installed in December 2008) and two for Odeon in the UK, respectively.

North America’s share of the giant screen market rose to 53 per cent, its largest contribution on record. This can be traced back to the launch of the new digital Imax system in second half 2008 and in particular a deal with leading US exhibitor AMC to install 100 screens, of which 26 were installed by end 2008. North America saw the largest regional increase of over 20 per cent, followed by Central and Eastern Europe (also up by 20 per cent), where two net new screen additions contributed to a 2008 tally of just 12 LF systems in that region.

During 2008 there were 47 new screen openings in North America, of which only seven were not the new Imax digital systems. China moved up into third place in the giant-screen rankings, behind USA and Japan, after it experienced the second highest net new openings (five) in 2008. The UK moved ahead of France and Spain to become the leading LF territory in Europe, following a loss of three LF venues the previous year.

The market continues to be dominated by the top 10 LF territories (including India and Australia in joint tenth with nine screens each), which rose to 84 per cent of the total in 2008. There was just one new territory to come online in 2008: the Ukraine, with one new opening in Kiev. Japan and Singapore were the only two territories to register an annual decline in LF screens in 2008, although Japan still retained its position as second overall.

A significant point to note was that of new screen openings, all venues had 3D capability in 2008, up from 93 per cent of net new screen openings the previous year. As a result, 3D LF venues now account for the majority 51 per cent of the market (as at November 2008), up from 46 per cent the previous year.

Imax’s share of the manufacturer market rose to 71.8 per cent at November 2008, up from 68.3 per cent in 2006. Imax expects up to 150 digital systems to be operational by end 2009, including the 46 installed in 2008.

By Charlotte Jones, ScreenDigest