The IMAX Success Story – What Is It & How Did It Succeed?

IMAX Success Story

Imagine stepping into a movie theater and suddenly finding yourself in the heart of the action. Surrounded by a screen so big and crystal-clear that you feel like you’re diving into the movie itself. That’s the magic of IMAX! Recently, the IMAX success story became the talk of the town… Why all of a sudden? You may ask.

IMAX Success Story

Due to the following events-

  • Two weeks ago, Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer ticket was sold at Rs.2,450 at PVR Icon IMAX in Mumbai. This price was nearly triple as compared to regular theaters in India. Well, that’s the same story in almost every IMAX theater containing countries worldwide. Another astonishing fact is… despite such sky-high prices, all the tickets are sold out within the blink of an eye!
  • Beginning as a small-case Canadian movie theater chain back in the 1960s became the king of theaters! It is one of the most luxurious and highly admired theaters. 
  • In 2022, it earned a revenue of $301 million. Also, its subsidiaries’ performance is outstanding in terms of income and profits.

Now, all these facts boil down to one question- How IMAX became so successful? What increases the fandom of IMAX among moviegoers? If you are also curious to find the answer to these questions, then stick to this article.

Here, we will decode the IMAX success story. Also, we will explore the factors that made IMAX the kingpin of the motion picture industry.

What is IMAX?

What is IMAX?

The acronym IMAX stands for “Image Maximum.” It is a high-resolution film projection and sound system that offers a uniquely immersive cinematic experience. In simple words, it is a movie theater! Although it was developed to provide audiences with an extraordinary level of visual and audio quality. But soon it raised the movie-watching experience to a whole new dimension.

How? You may ask!

IMAX screens are significantly larger than those in traditional cinemas, often spanning from floor to ceiling and wall to wall. This larger screen size, combined with specialized projectors, allows for incredibly detailed and sharp images, making viewers feel like they’re surrounded by the action. We will dive into detailed info in the upcoming sections.

For now, let’s have a brief overview of IMAX Corporation-

Company’s NameIMAX Corporation
Type of CompanyPublic
IndustryMotion Picture Production & Exhibition
Founded inAugust 1967
FoundersGraeme Ferguson,
Roman Kroitor,
Robert Kerr,
William Shaw
HeadquartersMississauga, (Ontario, Canada)
Area ServedWorldwide
CEORichard Gelfond
ProductsMovie Theaters
Revenue Earned in 2022$301 million
IMAX Corporation: A Brief Overview

Who owns IMAX? You may ask. Well, it is owned by Gelfond and Bradley Wechsler. They are investment bankers who acquired IMAX Corporation through a leveraged buyout from the NASDAQ stock exchange in 1994.

Ever since then, IMAX has focused on attracting Hollywood production houses. This 56-year-old company has achieved numerous milestones. What are those? You will get to know in the next section.

History and Timeline of IMAX

How did IMAX begin? You may wonder. As stated in the introductory para, it began as a Canadian theater that gradually expanded to become a movie theater giant.

Let’s dive into the history of the IMAX success story briefly-

TimelineEvents and Milestones
1967IMAX Corporation was established.
1970The first IMAX film, “Tiger Child,” was showcased at Expo ’70 in Osaka, Japan.
1971IMAX technology aired educational films and documentaries.
1979First Commercial IMAX theater opens in Vancouver, Canada
1980sExpansion of IMAX theaters globally, focusing on science centers and museums.
1986“Alaska: Spirit of the Wild” becomes the first IMAX film to receive wide commercial distribution.
1990sIntroduction of 3D IMAX films, enhancing the immersive experience.
1994“Into the Deep” becomes the first 3D IMAX film.  
The late 1990sIMAX technology adapted for Hollywood films
2000sContinued growth with more Hollywood films and blockbuster releases in IMAX format. It began with “Apollo 13” in 2002.
2008IMAX digital projection system launched, making IMAX more accessible and cost-effective.
2010sRecord-breaking box office successes with IMAX releases of major movies.
2020s (Present)IMAX remains a dominant player in premium cinema, offering cutting-edge technology and immersive experiences.
Milestones achieved by IMAX

How successful is IMAX?

Look at the following data to get the answer-

Particulars on IMAXInformation
Market Capitalization$1.07 billion
Presence Over 80 countries
Type of Seating in TheatreSteep Stadium seating
Number of Theatres in the world1,700 IMAX Theatres
Number of IMAX Screens in India23 IMAX Theatres
Aspect Ratio of theatres1.43:1 or 1.90:1
Revenue Earned in 2022$301 million
Box Office Collection in the first quarter of 2023$282.2 million
Special Features of IMAX

On April 4, 2023, IMAX Corporation announced its new set of records leading to the successful path. Its box office collection in the first quarter of 2023 was $282.2 million. The secret of this record-breaking result was none other than James Cameron’s “Avatar: The Way of Water.”

As per Rich Gelfond (CEO of IMAX), the company successfully capitalized on both local languages and the Hollywood box office. Incorporating local languages has diversified its content portfolio. Thus, it is an effective global growth strategy.

So its breakthrough records in the year 2023 are-

Breakthrough Records of IMAXDescription
Highest-grossing first-run release“Avatar: The Way of Water” generated $225 million
Chinese New Year Box Office$61.3 million
(new record in the segment of local language box office)
Highest-grossing local language film“The Wandering Earth 2”
Second highest-grossing local language film“Suzume” by Toho
Biggest Global Opening Weekend for the year 2023“Pathan” by Yash Raj Films” 
Highest-Grossing Sports Film“Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quintumnia” and “John Wick 4”
Breakthrough Records of IMAX

IMAX gained its popularity over the last several decades. It represents its successful operation in the market. All these factors contributed to the IMAX success story!

Why is IMAX so successful?

The IMAX success story is highly anticipated by the folks. Most of them are curious to know what makes IMAX so great! Let’s delve into the reasons one by one for its successful venture-

1. Modern Technology

IMAX uses large-format film technology. Its immersive sound systems and unparalleled cinematic experience differentiate it from ordinary theaters. The large screen size is efficient enough to fill the viewer’s field of vision. We can never underestimate its specialized projection which is the core of this exclusive theater. The IMAX 70 laser illumination is responsible for conferring an immersive viewing experience.

IMAX launched the “Filmed in IMAX” program in 2020. It certifies high-quality digital cameras that can be used to make IMAX-formal films. It will help filmmakers to create films that can meet the projection criteria of an IMAX giant screen theater.

The IMAX-certified cameras as-

  • Arri Alexa LF (4.5K camera)
  • Arri Alexa Mini LF (4.5K camera)
  • Panavision Millennium DXL2 (8K camera)
  • Red Ranger Monstro (8K camera)
  • Red V-Raptor (8K camera)
  • Sony CineAlta Venice (6K camera)
  • Arri Alexa 65 IMAX (6.5K camera)

2. Educational and Documentary Focus

IMAX Documentaries

This was the key strategy of IMAX during its initial days. Early IMAX theaters were often situated in science centers and museums. Therefore, it attracted a massive audience who sought educational content. During the 1970s, IMAX used to air educational films and documentaries. Thus, this strategy helped it to build a dedicated customer base and fan following. IMAX airs documentaries in the current era too!

3. Partnerships and Expansion

Look at the table given in the section “History and Timeline” of IMAX. You can see that Hollywood films were a crucial part of the company. Collaborations with filmmakers and distributors to release Hollywood movies in IMAX format were a stepping stone to its success. IMAX expanded its reach to wider audiences, tapping into the demand for enhanced cinematic experiences.

IMAX’s partnership with major film studios for blockbuster releases led to box office success, drawing larger audiences and boosting revenue.

4. Technology Evolution

The launch of the IMAX digital projection system made it easier for theaters to adopt IMAX technology. Thus, it helped in reducing costs and increasing accessibility. Also, the introduction of 3D IMAX films added a new dimension to the movie-watching experience. 

IMAX continued to invest in research and development. It introduces new technologies like laser projection and enhanced sound systems. This keeps the experience of viewers fresh and appealing.
Eventually, this strategy attracted viewers who were interested in the latest entertainment technologies.

5. Branding and Reputation

IMAX marketing (A part of IMAX success story)

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind whenever you hear the term “IMAX”? Movie theaters! Isn’t it? Have you ever wondered what made IMAX synonymous with theaters? Superior picture quality, immersive viewing experience, large screen, etc. You may say! It’s true. But it also became synonymous with high-quality and immersive cinema experiences. All these factors helped it to build a strong brand reputation that attracted both filmmakers and audiences.

The establishment of IMAX theaters in various countries ensured a worldwide presence, capturing international audiences and boosting revenue.

The three pillars of IMAX branding & reputation are-

(5.1) Visual Quality

IMAX uses advanced projection technology that delivers incredibly sharp and detailed visuals. The high-resolution images provide a level of clarity and depth that’s hard to replicate in traditional theaters, enhancing the overall visual appeal.

(5.2) Enhanced Sound

IMAX theaters often employ powerful sound systems that create a three-dimensional audio experience. The surround sound setup ensures that viewers are enveloped in the movie’s audio, from subtle whispers to booming explosions.

(5.3) Exclusive Content

IMAX often partners with filmmakers to create exclusive content, such as scenes shot with IMAX cameras or specially formatted versions of movies. This exclusivity attracts moviegoers who want to experience films in a unique and enhanced manner.

Apart from that, IMAX has effectively marketed itself as a premium cinematic experience. Thus, it created a strong brand identity that resonates with audiences looking for the best possible movie experience.

6. Premium Pricing

IMAX tickets are usually priced higher than standard movie tickets. This premium pricing strategy not only helps cover the costs of the specialized technology. But also adds a perceived value to the experience, making it a more attractive option for those seeking a special outing.
This gives rise to our next question- “Why are IMAX tickets so expensive?” Look at the next section to find out.

Why is IMAX so expensive?

IMAX theatre

Now it’s time to explore the reasons behind the expensive ticket prices of IMAX. Apart from the superior quality of IMAX theaters, some major reasons for its expensive ticket prices are-

1. Limited Availability

IMAX theaters are strategically placed in select locations, making them somewhat exclusive. This scarcity factor can make the experience feel more special and desirable, driving demand. As you know the principle of demand and supply gap. The lower the supply and the higher the demand, the price increases by default.

The immersive experience of IMAX attracts moviegoers who are willing to pay extra for a premium experience. This high demand for folks and the perceived value allows IMAX theaters to charge higher prices. Thus, the limited availability of IMAX theaters makes it expensive!

2. Licensing Fees

IMAX technology and branding come with licensing fees that theaters need to pay. These fees contribute to the overall operational costs, which are then passed on to the consumers.

3. Operating Costs

Running an IMAX theater requires specialized training, maintenance, and equipment. All these factors contribute to higher operating costs compared to standard theaters. Some IMAX theaters offer premium seating options, such as larger and more comfortable seats. These amenities contribute to the overall cost and justify the higher ticket prices.

How India Contributed to the IMAX Success Story?

India has played a significant role in the success story of IMAX. 

1. Collaboration with Bollywood

The Indian film industry, popularly known as Bollywood, has been a major contributor to IMAX’s global success. Indian filmmakers recognized the potential of IMAX’s immersive technology early on. Their collaboration with the format has resulted in numerous successful ventures. IMAX screens have showcased Bollywood blockbusters, enhancing the visual spectacle and attracting larger audiences. The grandeur of Indian cinema, characterized by vibrant colors, intricate sets, and elaborate song-and-dance sequences, is ideally suited to IMAX’s expansive screens.

2. Indian Scenic (Nature’s) Beauty

India’s diverse culture and breathtaking landscapes have provided compelling content for IMAX documentaries. Films featuring India’s natural beauty, historical sites, and cultural diversity have captivated audiences worldwide. 

3. Strategic Expansion of IMAX in India

This strategy has made the IMAX format more accessible to Indian audiences. The growth of multiplexes in urban centers allowed for the integration of IMAX technology, providing moviegoers with an unparalleled cinematic experience. This accessibility has fueled the demand for IMAX screenings, boosting its popularity and success in the Indian market.

4. Which is the biggest IMAX in India?

IMAX Prasad (Biggest IMAX theatre in India)

Prasad IMAX Screen in Hyderabad is the biggest s and most popular IMAX Theater in India. Its 72-foot high, 95-foot wide screen is accompanied by high seating capacity and a hi-watt sound system.


The IMAX success story showcases how a unique cinematic experience can captivate audiences and drive growth. By offering unparalleled visual and auditory immersion, IMAX established itself as a premium entertainment option. 

What can you learn from the IMAX Success Story? 

Well, the key takeaways include the importance of numerous efforts. Such as innovation in delivering a differentiated product, focusing on quality to create a lasting impact, etc. Also, understanding the power of experiential marketing is part of its successful journey. IMAX’s success underscores the significance of addressing customer needs and preferences in a distinct and remarkable way, which can lead to long-term success in a competitive market.

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Published By: Supti Nandi
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