TV & Movies

IMAX China Names New CEO Just in Time for Avatar 2 Domination

Just days before “Avatar: The Way of Water” opens in China and around the world, IMAX China — which could be in line for a massive boost thanks to James Cameron’s sci-fi epic — has named a new CEO.

Daniel Manwaring, who most recently led CAA China’s Motion Picture Group, will become the new CEO of IMAX China, effective January 9, 2023. He succeeds interim CEO Jiande Chen, who will return to his full-time role as vice chairman of IMAX China.

Manwaring, who has been with CAA since 2012 and became head of the China film group in 2018, has helped serve as a bridge between the local market and film talent around the world, and he’s represented some of China’s top filmmakers and led CAA’s Media Finance in the region. Over the last four years, he’s put together more than a dozen local and Hollywood films for release in Chinese theaters. He also played a key role in architecting financing and distribution entities in the region.

“Across his successful, decade-long tenure at CAA, Daniel has proven very adept at fostering blockbuster Chinese filmmaking that connects with audiences — a talent that will serve IMAX well as we strengthen our unique position at the center of the entertainment ecosystem in China,” said Rich Gelfond, CEO of IMAX. “Daniel’s expertise, creativity, and years of working with Chinese filmmakers, the China Film Bureau, and top film finance and distribution companies will be deeply valuable to IMAX China as we look to grow our industry leadership in this powerful cinema market.”

“As a long-time believer in the power of movies and the irreplaceable magic of the theatrical experience, I am thrilled to join Rich and the team at IMAX China to further expand this great business, foster new opportunities for growth and diversification, and deepen its connection with Chinese consumers,” said Manwaring.

Daniel Manwaring, CEO of IMAX China

Courtesy of IMAX

“Avatar: The Way of Water” recently scored a Chinese release date after China snubbed several of Disney’s latest Marvel entries. At a recent conference, Gelfond said that “Avatar” and IMAX “share a synergy” and that pre-sales for the film are at some of IMAX’s highest levels ever, so the expectations are high for its performance in the Chinese market specifically.

In 2010 when the original “Avatar” opened in China, the film topped out at $202.6 million, which was a massive haul considering China only had 5,690 movie screens. Today, it has over 82,000 (with lockdowns still in place, it’s unclear what percentage of those theaters will be operational when the “Avatar” sequel opens). IMAX delivered roughly 30 percent of “Avatar’s” Chinese box office, even though IMAX made up 1 percent of all the screens. And $250 million of the film’s $2.7 billion haul came from IMAX screens, even though there were only 250 million IMAX locations worldwide.

Suffice it to say, “Avatar” greatly accelerated IMAX’s growth domestically and especially in Asian markets. So when “The Way of Water” opens, it will do so on 1,700 IMAX screens across 89 countries.

Manwaring has been based in China since 2006 and is fluent in Mandarin. He received a dual degree in Finance and Chinese from University of Florida, he also has a degree in Chinese from Tsinghua University.

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