China’s Wanda Cinema Line, the country’s biggest theater chain, and 3D technology firm RealD announced Monday that they have agreed on the largest 3D installation in the history of the format, which will add at least 4,000 new RealD screens to Wanda’s multiplexes.
Wanda Cinema Line currently operates 320 theaters and 2,789 screens, mostly in China, but also in major cities in Australia and New Zealand. Wanda has 1,600 screens already equipped with RealD technology and the new deal will bring that up to a minimum of 5,600.
“As audiences throughout China continue to seek more and more 3D content, Wanda is investing in the very best systems and technology that allow for the highest quality presentation of 3D movies,” Wanda Cinema Line executive president Xiaobin Liu said in a statement announcing the deal. “Our RealD equipped theaters have been a significant part of our growth strategy and we are pleased to expand our partnership with RealD with this history making installation agreement.”
“China has steadily become the world’s most significant 3D market and the scale of this installation agreement signals an unprecedented commitment to the growth of 3D in this critically important entertainment region,” RealD CEO Michael V. Lewis said in the statement.
Wanda’s RealD deal is the latest move by the exhibitor to deepen its relationships with the biggest names — and biggest screens — in theater technology as it competes for a rapidly growing audience in what could be the world’s biggest box office as soon as 2017.
Wanda is the world’s No. 1 IMAX customer and is responsible for 16 percent of its global revenue. IMAX is expected to add 115 screens in China alone this year (there were only 1,061 worldwide at the beginning of the year), with 60 of them slated for Wanda theaters.
Wanda also signed a deal with Dolby Labs in January to install 100 of its premium-format Dolby Cinema theaters in China over the next five years.
And the competition is arming itself as well — late last year, Wanda rival China Film Group opened its first Barco Escape theater, a three-screen format that gives the audience an immersive, cockpit-style view of the action.