IMAX CEO: Media mergers show a tug of war between Silicon Valley and Hollywood

Shaheen Sattar, special to
Key Points
  • Richard Gelfond said media mergers in 2017 are a result of the increased dominance of Netflix and Amazon Prime
  • Netflix made more movies than any traditional Hollywood studio in 2017
Richard Gelfond, CEO, IMAX
Scott Mlyn | CNBC

A wave of media mergers this year is reflective of the increased dominance of online steaming giants like Netflix and Amazon Prime, the CEO of IMAX said Tuesday.

Richard Gelfond described the current situation as a "high level tug-of-war happening between Silicon Valley and Hollywood."

"Companies want to become bigger to position themselves to influence that, and that's why we're seeing so many mergers this year," he said. "These companies are positioning themselves for who's going to call the shots in the future."

A range of media mergers graced the headlines this year. Walt Disney and Twenty-First Century Fox announced a deal Friday, while IMAX said last week it had extended its partnership with Fox for five new movies including three X-Men titles.

Data showed that Netflix made more movies than any traditional Hollywood studio in 2017. The streaming giant recently announced it would release 80 in-house "Netflix Originals" films in 2018.

IMAX's earnings were taken to an all-time high after the release of 2015's "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." The latest Star Wars film, "The Last Jedi," is released Friday.

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Gelfond said: "No one movie either makes or breaks IMAX. Star Wars is bigger for us than almost any other movie, because it's not just the core franchise, it's the spin-offs that will happen. It's important to our company."

Millennials: The turning point for strategy in 2018

A recent survey by Fandango, a U.S. online ticket outlet, showed that 86 percent of millennials plan to watch at least two movies or more on the big screen this holiday season.

According to the survey, the top pick was "Star Wars: The Last Jedi," which is poised to make $425 million on its opening weekend. The same survey also showed that 56 percent of millennials recognized formats like IMAX and quality sound as amenities that draw them to the cinema.

"Particularly niche films, and maybe medium-budget films, will migrate more to streaming," Gelfond said. "The reason for that is you can save a lot of money on distribution costs, and it's inevitable that will happen."