Nowadays it’s almost guaranteed that large tentpole releases from the studios get either the IMAX treatment, 3D releases or both. For awhile, IMAX was primarily used to showcase documentary fare at museums, but its adoption by Hollywood – thanks to its increased ticket price – has lead the company to become bigger than ever. With Wally Pfister talking about shooting a mix of IMAX and 70mm film for The Dark Knight Rises, it’s important to discuss the differences between the formats and to truly dive into what IMAX really is.
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I made this infographic to explain the differences between IMAX, 5/70mm and 35mm film as well as to give the reader a real sense of scale of IMAX productions. On every front, dealing with IMAX almost always means dialing things up to a whole new level – whether it be the size of the film stock, the weight of the camera, or the installation of screens.
There were some interesting tidbits I found while researching for this post that I wasn’t able to fit into the graphic that I think really show how hard it can be to shoot in IMAX. For one, it takes almost 20 minutes to reload an IMAX film magazine and once loaded, it only shoots for 3 minutes. Secondly, if shooting sound with the camera a blimp can be added on to muffle the loud camera noise, but it also adds on close to 200 lbs. of weight!
What I think is most telling about the infographic, though, is that while IMAX is a recognizable brand, it’s footprint in film and in theaters is actually quite small statistically. IMAX may have 470 theaters worldwide but that is still about 200 less screens than all of the drive-in theaters in America.
It is expanding, however, and those expansion efforts are highlighted by the bottom line of their most recent third quarter 2010 fiscal report.
The same areas that are propelling IMAX’s growth, however, are also the most troubling. To spur along sales and expand, IMAX has been converting existing multiplexes with IMAX screens, projectors and sound systems. This conversion can result in significantly reduced screen size that on the surface is difficult to reconcile despite CEO Richard Gelfond claiming only 2% of customers notice a difference in their experience between the larger screens and the converted ones.
The other side of the IMAX equation moving forward is their IMAX DMR (Digital Media Remastering) technology that converts films not shot in native IMAX to be released in the format, and subsequently, into their theaters. That includes almost all Hollywood feature films that get “The IMAX Experience” and has been a boon to the company once Hollywood saw dollar signs in higher ticket prices.
But it’s not just Hollywood that boasts about the revenue coming in from this IMAX tech as CEO Gelfond was bragging in their fiscal earnings report that “we experienced another strong quarter of box office growth, lead by Christopher Nolan and Warner Bros. Pictures’ 2D sci-fi actioner, Inception” and adding, “…we are excited about our coming line-up of titles, which includes DreamWorks Animation’s Megamind, part one of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows from Warner Bros. and Disney’s TRON: Legacy.”
While the focus of the company has certainly shifted, as I hope the infographic shows, it is still astonishing to conceptualize eight-story tall movie screens or a film frame that is 10 times what we are already used to viewing. Enjoy the infographic and feel free to embed it on your own blogs/sites using the embed code or by linking to this post.
What do you think about the focus of IMAX as a company? As a format? Would you like to see a feature film shot entirely in IMAX?