"Dark Knight" fuels bright day for Imax

Tue Jul 22, 2008 11:54am EDT
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By Carl DiOrio and Paul Bond

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Imax has been "this close" to breaking big on the film exhibition scene, well, seemingly forever.

So it might ring a bit hollow when executives predict that favorable publicity from Imax's role in the record success of "The Dark Knight" will prove to be a watershed for the giant-screen vendor.

"This is a game-changer for us," Imax Filmed Entertainment president Greg Foster said.

The claim -- made in the heady afterglow of Warner Bros.' record bow of its latest Batman sequel -- is similar to sentiments expressed by Imax executives at various points in recent years, when Hollywood films like "The Matrix" and other big commercial releases started hitting giant-screen venues at the same time as conventional theaters. Yet for all that hype, Imax's usable base of commercially viable screens has yet to hit triple digits domestically.

So why might success with "Dark Knight" finally push Imax into the exhibition mainstream? Two big reasons, potentially:

-- The $158.4 million opening for the latest Batman sequel featured $6.2 million from just 94 Imax screens, or a mind-numbing $67,000 per venue.

-- The unprecedented giant-screen grosses arrive just as the company is making a big push into digital exhibition.

The latter point is particularly important. The digital push is lowering exhibitors' costs on Imax equipment for prospective partnerships -- from $1 million-plus per installation to about $150,000. Building upon favorable publicity from its "Dark Knight" success, Imax hopes to have a much larger installed base of giant screens soon.   Continued...

<p>Christian Bale as Batman is shown in a scene from director Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight" in this undated publicity photo released to Reuters July 18, 2008. REUTERS/Warner Bros. Pictures/Handout</p>