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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

IMAX and The Hunger Games

Last year we took a look at the emergence of 3D and IMAX in cinemas and home theater. Now, heading into this year’s blockbuster summer season, let’s take a fresh look at where those technologies stand.

3D and IMAX
First, the bad news for the film industry: moviegoers are staying away from the theater in droves, with the number of tickets sold in 2011 at their lowest level since 1995.1 Box office numbers have been in decline since 2002, and it seems the proliferation of 3D films has been a contributing factor in that decline. The feeling is that 3D is seen as gimmicky with audience members being put off by both the glasses and, more importantly, the higher ticket prices 3D demands.2

However, despite the frightening numbers, it’s not all doom and gloom in regards to the box office. There’s one area in which ticket sales are booming, and that’s IMAX. During the first six weeks of 2012, IMAX ticket sales totaled $55 million, a 45% increase from the same time period in 2011.3

One reason IMAX sales are growing is that the giant-screen experience is one that cinema lovers simply can’t replicate at home, unlike standard theater and even 3D. Also, IMAX generally dedicates itself to blockbuster “event” movies to make the experience really worthwhile. IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond himself describes their core audience as “fanboys and fangirls,” which explains why even a movie like John Carter, which has generally been seen as a flop, made 17% of its box office gross from IMAX screens.4

The Hunger Games
And of course, those promising 2012 numbers for IMAX were measured before the really big 2012 films came out. Like Titanic, the second highest grossing film of all time, which returns to theaters (including 3D and IMAX) this week. Oh, and another one you may have heard of called The Hunger Games, the hottest ticket so far this year, which opened recently to the fifth highest opening day of all time.5 IMAX screenings of the film brought in $10.2 million during its opening weekend, an IMAX record.6 That being the case, it will be very interesting to see the IMAX numbers at the end of the year, when they will include such films as The Dark Knight Rises, The Hobbit, and Marvel’s The Avengers.

What Do You Think?
Are IMAX films worth the premium ticket price? How do you feel about 3D? Let us know in the comments section below.


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