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Imax's longtime entertainment chief departs, replaced by former Paramount executive

Imax's longtime entertainment chief departs, replaced by former Paramount executive
Greg Foster, former head of Imax Entertainment, is shown in 2010. (Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)

Former Paramount Pictures executive Megan Colligan is joining Imax Corp. in a major leadership change for the big-screen movie exhibitor as the company prepares for its future in an increasingly competitive market.

Colligan, who mostly recently led marketing and distribution at Paramount, will become president of Imax Entertainment in February, Imax said Monday. Once installed, Colligan will be charged with growing the Canadian firm’s box office and overseeing the lineup of films that play in its theaters. She’ll report to Imax Chief Executive Rich Gelfond.

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Greg Foster, Imax Entertainment’s current chief, will leave the company at the end of 2018 when his contract expires, capping an 18-year career.

Foster’s exit has been in the works for about a year, and the decision was mutual, according to people familiar with the matter who did not want to comment publicly. He has not said what he plans to do next.

The management switch represents an end of an era for Imax, which opened its $45-million West Coast headquarters in Playa Vista in 2014. Foster joined Imax in 2001 as president of filmed entertainment, at a time when the company was still mostly known for playing nature films on its giant museum screens.

He helped grow Imax’s nascent entertainment arm into a platform for blockbuster spectacles, forging relationships with filmmakers including Christopher Nolan, J.J. Abrams and Ryan Coogler. He was promoted to chief executive of Imax Entertainment in 2013.

But after 18 years, Foster felt it was time to move on to something new, he said in an interview.

“I’m really proud of what we’ve built, and I feel it’s time to pass the baton,” Foster said.

Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) sharpens his senses for battle against Thanos in "Avengers: Infinity War."
Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) sharpens his senses for battle against Thanos in "Avengers: Infinity War." (Disney-Marvel)

Imax is benefiting from a surge in box office sales this year, propelled by Imax-friendly studio hits such as “Black Panther” and “Avengers: Infinity War.” Imax generated $183 million in revenue the first sixth months of this year, up 17% from the same period last year.

Still, the company, which has more than 1,400 locations in nearly 80 countries, is sure to face major challenges to its business model as more consumers flock to streaming video for their entertainment and more top-shelf filmmakers gravitate toward the digital market.

Part of Colligan’s mandate will be finding ways to help Imax adapt to those changes. She’ll be charged with finding innovative methods of working with studios and theater companies to make Imax’s offerings more attractive to consumers, as the big-screen format faces increasing competition.

It’s not yet clear what new tactics Imax will employ to reach consumers. In recent years, the company has tried different ways of branching out, with mixed results, including investing in the Marvel Studios TV show “Inhumans” and virtual reality gaming centers. Some of the company’s experiments may include experiences outside the multiplex.

“There are a lot of possibilities,” Colligan said in an interview “You just have to think about what makes sense on a business level and for audiences, and start to take some chances and experiment.”

Colligan will work with filmmakers to put more elements suited to Imax’s giant screens in their movies, such as the use of Imax cameras. Her studio experience will also come in handy as Imax negotiates with streaming video companies to play their movies on Imax screens.

“She’s very innovative, she’s whip smart and she’s creative,” Gelfond said in an interview. “The world is changing so fast, and I think she has the right set of skills and relationships to help us be ahead of the curve.”

Colligan previously spent more than a decade at Paramount Pictures, most recently serving as worldwide president of marketing and distribution for the Viacom Inc.-owned studio. At Paramount, Colligan spearheaded marketing and distribution efforts for franchises including “Transformers” and “Paranormal Activity.”

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She left the Los Angeles studio in November after a tumultuous period for Paramount, which suffered numerous flops, including “Ghost in the Shell.” Her departure was part of a management overhaul led by Paramount Pictures Chief Executive Jim Gianopulos.

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