Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Begun, these IMAX wars have? Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol in IMAX will go head-to-head with Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows after all.

In the category of 'here's an interesting idea', Paramount and director Brad Bird announced today that Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol (see trailer) will be opening five days early in select IMAX theaters.  So while the film's wide release will stay occur on Wednesday, December 21st, the film will have its IMAX debut on Friday December 16th, 2011.  This is more-or-less a first of its kind.  Paramount did hold sneak previews the day before the wide release of Super 8 which occurred in most of its IMAX locations, but this selective sneak opening basically gives the fourth Mission: Impossible film a pre-release opening weekend of sorts.  Point being, it looks like M:I4 will be going head-to-head against Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (see trailer) after all, as December 16th is the wide-release opening day for the Robert Downey Jr/Jude Law sequel.

Brad Bird, in his live-action debut, has shot twenty-five minutes of the film in IMAX film, and he claims the sneak-opening "is to bring back a 'level of showmanship'".  IE - Bird and company are trying to bring back the concept of seeing a true 'first run movie' in a first-rate theater.  I distinctly remember going to see Dreamgirls on opening night of its limited release at the Arclight Hollywood back in December of 2006.  It was $25 a ticket, with a booklet/program and other token goodies which created an aura of actually attending opening night of a Broadway show.  As I put it at the time, it was a four-star presentation of a three-star movie. Anyway, I spent much 'ink' in 2008 and 2009 discussing what I felt were going to be the coming IMAX wars, when studios realized the appeal and value of IMAX theaters and started opening all of their big films in the large-screen format.  However, Avatar's massive 3D success changed the subject for two years.  But in the end, the key to the future of theatrical exhibition, in my opinion, was always IMAX.

3D is slowly becoming commonplace on the newer HDTV sets, so it will soon no longer require a trip to the theater.  But the so-called 'IMAX Experience', seeing a new movie on a 100-foot screen with wall-to-wall speakers, is arguably the last theatrical experience that cannot, for the near future, be replicated in a home theater set-up.  This move also represents a token pull-away from the obsession over opening weekend.  Even if it fills up nearly every single IMAX seat the 200-300 IMAX auditoriums available, it would open around $30-40 million, which is still likely less than what Sherlock Holmes 2 (or Alvin and the Chipmunks 3) will open with that weekend.  Or, if you want to be a pessimist, you can speculate that the move is purely about building word of mouth in advance of its wide release, to perhaps offset some of the damage that has been done to Tom Cruise's drawing power since 2006.  Either way, this move has the potential to be a game changer for mega-budget movies that are also debuting in IMAX.

IMAX CEO Richard L. Gelfond offered this official statement: "This is something we've been working on with our studio, exhibition and film maker partners for some time. We're still working out the details, but this would be the first meaningful step in a new early release strategy. We believe this has significant possibilities and we will be exploring this further." 

As for the movie itself, I am heartened to see Bird referencing the Vanessa Redgrave scenes in Brian DePalma's original classic.  Fifteen years after its release, what was once criticized for being 'too confusing' (IE - you had to pay attention and have at least 85 IQ points) stands tall as perhaps the last mega-budgeted summer tent-pole film that was made for adults, by adults, and with adult sensibilities.

What are your thoughts on this sneak-opening gambit?  How badly will this bite into the opening weekend of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows?

Scott Mendelson

1 comment:

obthavariable said...

Interesting enough, I made a promise this year to only watch movies in theaters from now on if they're in IMAX, or at least Digital Projection. Sucker Punch IMAX, Fast Five DP, Transformers 3 IMAX 3D. I saw Tree of Life in 35mm, but I would've seen that on any kind of reel.

I'm still not sure what is supposed to be the big advantage for moviegoers other than to see a movie that's available in "the best" format a few days prior to being available in other formats. I don't think it'll cut into Sherlock Holmes's revenue, and people planning to see MI4 will do so because they want to see it at any point between the day it comes out and the day it's no longer available. I guess if they stumble upon it between 12/16 and 12/21 they will be at an advantage because they'll be seeing it in the best quality without having the option to resort to the cheaper, less impressive/immersive format. So is that supposed to be a win-win? I guess.

Either way, I'm not interested in anything other than The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Like The Tree of Life, I'll watch that no matter if it's on a computer monitor, and still pay money to see it. I hope it blows MI4, Tin Tin and the rest of the competition out of the water.


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