After 18 years at Imax, Greg Foster is set to leave his position as CEO, Imax Entertainment and Senior EVP Imax Corp. by the end of the year when his contract ends. Taking over for him will be former Paramount Pictures Global Marketing and Distribution boss Megan Colligan who is being appointed to the position of President, Imax Entertainment and Executive Vice President, Imax Corporation.
Colligan will report to Imax Corp. CEO Rich Gelfond, who announced the news today. After a consulting period, her appointment will become effective on Feb. 19 next year.
Word is that Foster has been having continued discussions with Gelfond about moving on for some time, and when Foster didn’t re-up his spot on the company’s board recently (which he was appointed to in October 2016), it was an early indication that he was poised to exit. During his tenure, Foster has catapulted Imax from being a large format exhibitor known for its dazzling feature documentaries at museums, to a global box office catalyst for major studios, taking the exhibitor’s forte for groundbreaking sound and massive jaw-dropping images and translating that over to four-quad event movies. Today, any studio that doesn’t have Imax’s 715 screens as part of their opening weekend theater count knows that they’ll come up short in some way at the global box office. Many dating decisions for the majors are made around whether they can secure Imax venues for their worldwide openings. In the U.S./Canada, Imax will typically drive anywhere from 8% to 12%-plus of a film’s opening weekend ticket sales.
Foster has been key in expanding Imax’s footprint, not just in the U.S., but China and abroad as well, and that torch is now passed to Colligan as the mainland continues to have a demand for large format cinema. There are a number of under-screened territories offshore and Colligan will have a focus on those as well. Foster was also instrumental in getting Imax cameras into the hands of auteurs like Christopher Nolan and the Russo Brothers, the later who shot Avengers: Infinity War entirely in Imax, the first feature film of its kind. The combination of these filmmakers’ style with Imax have taken movies to a whole other level that 4K TV-equipped living rooms will never realize.
What makes Colligan a key hire for Imax is that she too has longstanding relationships with filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese, Michael Bay, and J.J. Abrams. During the release of the Al Gore-scripted 2017 documentary An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, the former Vice President of the United States praised Colligan’s efforts in getting the movie out there (it mades its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival); the 2006 edition won two Oscars for best documentary feature and Melissa Etheridge’s song “I Need to Wake Up”.
In sum Colligan will oversee Imax’s global entertainment division and assist in growing the company’s global box office as well as cultivating Imax’s strategic relationships and partnerships in the entertainment industry. She’ll also oversee the company’s global film slates and programming of its auditorium network, as well as post production, quality control and DMR process (Imax’s proprietary film conversion technology). In addition to key studio partnerships on big movies such as Star Wars, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Warner Bros.’ DC titles, MGM’s 007 movies and Lionsgate’s Hunger Games films, Imax has made a niche for itself programming more adult-oriented, non-fanboy content such as Fifty Shades of Grey, American Sniper, and this past weekend’s First Man, in addition to alternative content such as Game of Thrones episodes which have populated the release calendar during non-busy periods. Colligan will continue to oversees these distribution strategies and also play a key role in shaping Imax’s Film Fund as well as colloborations in the emerging streaming marketplace.
Gelfond said, “Given Megan’s extensive experience in the entertainment industry, she has a unique perspective on how it is evolving and what Imax can do to grow our global entertainment business in new and innovative ways. Her strong relationships with film studios, exhibitors, filmmakers and talent around the world will help us take our already robust partnerships to the next level and build exciting new ones.”
“Imax as both a tech company and exhibitor is in an incredible position and they have propelled the theatrical business to a real healthy place worldwide. I look forward to working with them to create more opportunities as they continue to change the game for immersive entertainment. The more times you can get a person to live the Imax experience, the more habit-forming moviegoing becomes, and that’s great for the industry as a whole,” Colligan tells Deadline.
Gelfond continued, “I’d like to thank Greg for his dedication and commitment to building Imax’s blockbuster film business and contributing to our overall success. He is a great friend who has worked tirelessly for Imax and I’m grateful for his enormous contributions over nearly two decades. His relentless drive to build relationships across the industry in both domestic and international markets with the finest filmmakers, studios and exhibitors was critical in helping Imax become the global brand that audiences equate with the best moviegoing experience on the planet.”
“After nearly 18 years at Imax, I leave extremely proud of what we’ve built and accomplished,” said Foster. “I want to do everything possible to guarantee the continued prosperity of a company I have known and loved for such a long time. I can’t think of anyone better to hand the baton to than Megan. We’ve been friends and colleagues for many years and she’s a professional and talented film executive. I look forward to working with Megan to ensure a smooth transition of responsibilities. I’m leaving the company I helped build in excellent hands. Rich and everyone at Imax will always be part of the extended Foster Family.”
From 2006-2017, Colligan served in executive roles at Paramount Pictures, most recently as Worldwide President of Marketing and Distribution during a three-year period. From 2011 to 2014 Colligan served as the Head of Domestic Marketing and Distribution and as Co-Head of Domestic Marketing from 2008 to 2011. She spearheaded and was behind many of the studios’ campaigns for such franchises as Transformers, Mission: Impossible, Star Trek, Anchorman, G.I. Joe, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Paranormal Activity. Such efforts by Colligan spurred a $1 billion annual business for Paramount’s Home Entertainment division. Prior to Disney, Marvel’s distribution deal was at Paramount and she was behind the launches for Iron Man, Thor and Captain America. During an 11-year period, she took the studio to 14 Best Picture Oscar nominations including Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival, Denzel Washington’s Fences, Adam McKay’s The Big Short, and Martin Scorsese’s films The Wolf Of Wall Street and Hugo to name a few. She is a member of AMPAS, and the winner of the 2013 Sherry Lansing Award from Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles. She has served on the organization’s Board since receiving the honor. She chairs the marketing committee and serves on the executive committee and fund development committee. She graduated from Harvard University with a B.A. in American history and African American studies.