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Mobile device boom no threat to movie theatre growth: Imax CEO

A close up of one of two IMAX cameras is seen at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington April 4, 2012. REUTERS/Gary Cam
A close up of one of two IMAX cameras is seen at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington April 4, 2012. REUTERS/Gary Cam

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - People will always want to watch movies in theatres despite the growing trend of watching videos at home and on mobile devices, the head of giant movie system maker Imax said.

"People are social animals and I don't think they want to be chained to their couches, mobile devices and tablets. They want to go out," Richard Gelfond, chief executive of Canada-based Imax, told the annual President's Conference in Israel on Thursday.

"They recognize the fact that (filmmakers) Steven Spielberg and James Cameron may be better at telling a story than a 16 year old over the Internet. I think they can exist side by side."

Special effects-driven movies, in particular, "cannot be adequately captured" on a mobile device, Gelfond said.

"You need to go to a theatre to appreciate them. If you are going to leave home you want a dramatically different experience than in the home."

Imax also designs and manufactures theatre systems and then sells or leases them under revenue-sharing arrangements. It has more than 738 theatres in 53 countries.

Its fourth-quarter 2012 profit soared as gross box office revenue from its digital media remastering business rose 56 percent to $152 million, and its theatre network grew. Remastering adapts a movie shot for normal theaters for giant Imax screens.

Imax signed contracts for 142 new theaters in 2012.

The entertainment industry, Gelfond said, was becoming more globalised, with the United States now accounting only for a third of global box office sales.

He said the digital era is lowering the cost of making movies while special effects can be created on a home computer.

"There is an opportunity for almost anyone to make a movie but those movies are likely to be shown on tablets," Gelfond said.

In Israel, there are just two Imax theatres, and Gelfond said he would like to see about 20.

(Reporting by Tova Cohen and Steven Scheer, Editing by Jeffrey Heller)

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