Janet Yang Joins Imax China as Company Profits Stage Post-COVID Rebound

Janet Yang, the Los Angeles-based producer and president of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, has been appointed as an independent non-executive director to the board of Imax China, a subsidiary of premium large format cinema company Imax that has its own share listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

More from Variety

The company, Wednesday, reported a return to net profits of $27.5 million for the 2023 calendar year. That compared with net profit of $10.8 million in 2022. Revenues rebounded too, from $73.3 million to $87 million.

The 2022 results were also undermined by a more than $19 million loss related to currency hedging. Imax China said that on a “total comprehensive income” basis, 2023 was profitable to the tune of $24.7 million, compared with losses of $8.7 million in 2022.

Currencies aside, the company appears to have emerged in good health. Its balance sheet shrank slightly, trade payables were down, borrowings were eliminated and retained earnings soared.

In the business of providing “content services” or remastering Chinese and Hollywood films for release in China, and supplying Imax giant screens (under sales, lease or maintenance deals) to exhibition chains in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, the company anticipated and benefited from China’s box office recovery last year, which was primarily driven by the success of local films.

“As local filmmakers start to develop their content into franchises, much like their Hollywood counterparts, the group is actively working with local directors to create and deliver their cinematic work with the most amazing visual presentation by leveraging Imax certified cameras and expanded aspect ratios,” the company said. It says it intends to continue expanding the number of Chinese films that appear on its screens. In 2023, some 85% of box office in mainland China came from local titles, and Imax keeps a higher proportion of revenues from these than on the Hollywood imports.

It saw Hollywood releases on its screens in China increase from 10 in 2022 to 22 in 2023 (in addition to 19 others released in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan but not in the mainland). Local films released in China on Imax screens climbed from 13 to 30.

Box office revenue per screen increased 86% from $210,000 in 2022 to $390,000 in 2023.

China operated unusually strict anti-COVID measures and was not in phase with the rest of the world. And some pandemic effects lingered through 2023.

“As a result of the financial difficulties faced by certain of the Group’s exhibitor customers, 2023 saw 14 theater closures within the Imax theatre network in Greater China,” the company said. That meant net operations in Greater China increased only slowly last year, from 794 at the end of 2022, to 807 theaters at the end of 2023. It also has contracts to supply a further 206 screen and projector systems in the region.

The company also warned: “There remains uncertainty around whether and when movie-going will return to historical levels.”

The appointment of Yang to the board, and to the company’s audit committee, follow the exit of Dawn Taubin as a non-executive director and the retirement of Jessie Chou as an executive director. Daniel Manwaring, who last year joined as CEO, now also becomes an executive director.

The board room shuffles also follow an ultimately unsuccessful bid by the Imax Group parent company to take Imax China private.

Following Wednesday’s results, the company’s shares dropped 10% to HK$6.65 apiece, giving a market capitalization of HK2.26 billion ($286 million). That price compares with HK$10 per share in Imax’s defeated offer and with HK$31 per share when the company was first listed in 2015.

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.