IMAX talks about what they look for in bringing 3D to their screens. IMAX has made a big commitment to 3D exhibition: 200 new screens coming on line as quickly as possible, with IMAX producing all of their documentaries in stereoscopic 3D.
"Monsters vs. Aliens" is a line in the sand, a point -at which things changed.
I think that the first line in the sand was "Polar Express." Jeffrey Katzenberg refers to it as "the eureka moment," when the world said, holy cow, when 3D is done in a certain way, and exhibited a certain way, it has the opportunity to not only be a differentiated experience, but to produce significant incremental revenue." I believe that "Polar Express" was the impetus for this giant new 3D surge.
"Monsters vs. Aliens" was a line in the sand because it was the first that was properly sold as a wide 3D release, that generated north of 50% of its revenue from 3D, and that was authored with 3D tools.
This is as opposed to being a movie that was not made in stereo, but made in 2D, and kludged into 3D. It was also, on the exhibition side, the most screens ever for a 3D film until that point.
When we look back in 10 years, and think about where and when things changed, my guess is that the three 3D moments that produced that change are "Polar Express," "Monsters vs. Aliens," and James Cameron's "Avatar."
Adding new screens to show all of this 3D content isn't a logjam for IMAX because we're not part of the DCIP rollout. The credit markets have been tricky right now, but we're self-financed. Conditions are a problem for us in the grand scheme because we are part of the community, but they're not a problem for us in terms of our own rollout.
[Ed. note: The Digital Conversion Implementation Partners is a partnership between the top three theater chains, with commitments from five major studios, whose expansion plans have been tempered by recent economic conditions.]
We actually have more than two hundred Digital IMAX screens coming over the course of the next 18 months. We've already sold them, and are now installing them as quickly as we possibly can.
We were once just a company in Toronto whose theaters were in most of the cool museums, science centers, and aquariums around the world that you could possibly be in, and we made fabulous 40-minute documentary films. As wonderful as they were, we were starting to get a little bit too far on the education side, and a little bit too distant from the entertainment side.
We used to do some 2D and some 3D documentary films, be we have started making only 3D films. We have also moved the bar a little bit more in the middle of the education/entertainment continuum, in slow and steady steps to make sure we weren't offending anyone.
At the same time, we created a technology called DMR (Digital Remastering) that lets us take commercially- released Hollywood films and convert them into IMAX. We have now created ostensibly three or four film businesses.
The first is our documentary movies. "Deep Sea 3D" just crossed $80 million at the box office. Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet narrated, Howard Hall directed, and Danny Elfman did the music. It was also produced and written by Toni Myers, who has produced, edited, written or directed around 20 IMAX features, including "IMAX: Hubble 3D," which is currently in production. "Under the Sea 3D" is out now, narrated by Jim Carrey, and with the same crew.
The second is our Hollywood, family-oriented movies, in both 3D and 2D, such as "Polar Express," movies from DreamWorks Animation, the Harry Potter films, etc.
And then we have our fanboy movies, edgier fare that's really working for us. It's a new demographic that we started cultivating with Christopher Nolan and "Batman Begins." They love our stuff - they're the ones buying advance tickets for movies like "Star Trek" - and I say this with the utmost affection: we love those freaks. We embrace them, honor them, and work very hard to deliver the coolest movies possible for that crowd.
Along with our documentaries and family-oriented films, it makes for a very balanced set of programming.
Astronaut Bill Shepherd uses an IMAX camera aboard the International Space Station. (Courtesy of NASA.)
DIGITAL IMAX 3D
I can't tell you exactly what the inside of a Digital IMAX 3D projection booth looks like. I can tell you that it has two projectors, with an IMAX image enhancer that amps up the presentation.
Before going digital, we didn't have the reach into a lot of the international territories, and we couldn't get that reach without Hollywood films.
Combine that demand with the lower cost of entry into our business through digital technology, and we've been able to cast a wider net.
We have digital theaters now in Australia. We have one that just opened up in Taipei. We have three that are opening up in June for Transformers in Japan. We have two in the UK. We have some opening up in the next six weeks in Austria. We are all over the place.
Our first step in the chain begins with a visionary filmmaker, with a great studio partner, with a movie that is conceived to take you somewhere you dream about going, but will probably never get to. That can be Hogwarts. That can be Gotham City. That can be the Enterprise. That can be under the sea. That can be International Space Station or the Hubble Telescope.
When we hit those three characteristics, those three qualifiers, then we want to be involved with that movie.
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Los Angeles, California USA
Greg Foster is IMAX's President of Filmed Entertainment. Before joining the company in 2001, he was the Executive Vice-President of Production at MGM/ UA, playing a key role in over 150 films, including Get Shorty, Rain Man, Species, Thelma and Louise, King Pin, A Fish Called Wanda, Moonstruck, and several of the James Bond, 007 pictures.