IMAX puts 3D spin on science films with "Hubble 3D"

Sat Apr 3, 2010 7:58pm EDT
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By Michael Goldman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - IMAX has returned to outer space with the movie "IMAX: Hubble 3D," a documentary that harks back to IMAX's roots in science films, but spins into a 3D, Hollywood orbit.

In recent years, the company known for giant-screen films has carved out a valuable business boosting the size of big-budget studio movies like "Avatar" and "How to Train Your Dragon" to suit larger screens, both in 2D and 3D. With its newest effort, however, IMAX returns to its role of offering large-format science films, albeit this time in trendy 3D.

"IMAX: Hubble 3D" documents the May 2009 space shuttle mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope. To capture that footage, a crew of IMAX veterans relied on astronauts to be filmmakers. It was a challenging collaboration led by director Toni Myers and her IMAX crew, teaming with seven astronauts, a NASA support team, one giant camera, space shuttle Atlantis and the galaxy's most famous telescope.

The documentary debuted two weeks ago in IMAX science center theaters in the United States, and by August it will also be playing on IMAX multiplex screens. It has earned mostly strong reviews, with an overall 80 percent positive rating on review website

The 43-minute film arrives as IMAX has boosted both its brand name and its bottom line by showing Hollywood movies in refurbished traditional multiplexes. In 2009, IMAX reported net income of 5 million on total revenue of $171 million, up from a net loss of $34 million on sales of $102 million a year earlier. IMAX's stock has risen roughly fourfold since.


But Greg Foster, chairman and president of IMAX Filmed Entertainment, says that science and nature films like "Hubble 3D" remain "a very big responsibility" for the company and "part of our lineage, part of our commitment to continue producing high-quality IMAX film documentaries.

"These films work for one basic reason -- school groups. They are educationally focused and have a long, valuable life as a result," he told Reuters.   Continued...

<p>The Hubble Space Telescope is seen with the earth in the background in this hand-held video from the aft flight deck window of the space shuttle Atlantis' as the orbiter backs away after releasing the telescope in this image from NASA TV May 19, 2009. REUTERS/NASA TV</p>