Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Pity... Universal cancels Oblivion's early IMAX release.

Having rather loathed Tron: Legacy, I've had to work myself up in order to get excited about Joseph Kosinski's Oblivion.  Yes, Tom Cruise usually makes sure that his big-scale pictures are a cut above and yes the film looks better with each trailer, but the biggest cause for hope was its release schedule.  The film's national release was set for April 19th, but the film was also going a full week early in IMAX only, giving paying audiences a week-long sneak preview in IMAX and other larger-screen formats.  But alas, that promising move by Universal has been cancelled.  Chalk it up to Cruise wanting to do international press for the film's overseas debut on the 12th and the film's US debut on the 19th, chalk it up to Universal wanting an extra week of play for their 3D reissue of Jurassic Park on April 12th, but audiences will not be seeing Oblivion: The IMAX Experience one week early after all.  Color me genuinely disappointed.

The fact that Universal was willing and able to unleash this one a week ahead of its 35mm (or DLP) release meant that the studio obviously had confidence in the picture.  You don't do what amounts to a week-long sneak preview unless you know you have the goods.  Now the film is probably locked and whatever good insider buzz that led Universal to schedule the original IMAX debut still exists in the film itself, so I'm not inclined to chalk this up to the picture being a surprise stinker, tempting as that might be. Universal seems to think that their 3D/IMAX re-issue of Jurassic Park is going to fare better than Monsters Inc. 3D and I'd argue even doing around the around-$50 million scored by Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace and Titanic last year would count as a win (note: I'm not sure if Jurassic Park is going wide on 3D screens or just IMAX).  Still, press requirements aside, it's disheartening that Universal is arguably putting their IMAX chips on a reissue versus a new movie and it's frankly another example of a big Hollywood blockbuster opening overseas before opening domestically.

But I frankly love the idea of IMAX-only early releases for two reasons.  First, the idea of the IMAX sneak is a blow against the 'opening weekend at all costs' philosophy that has dominated the industry for the last 20 years or so. Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol topped $200 million back in 2011 off a mere $11 million IMAX-only debut. Two, as Brad Bird stated back when Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol went out five days early in IMAX back in December 2011, it hearkens back to the early days when films would make their premieres in only the best theaters before slowly expanding nationwide.    I may be sentimental, but I was looking forward to seeing other studios following Paramount's lead.  MGM/Sony did a 24-hour sneak IMAX re-release of Skyfall last year and netted an extra $2.5 million for their troubles.  And Paramount is sneak-releasing Star Trek Into Darkness two days early in IMAX only.  But for films that aren't gunning for any opening weekend records, why not go the IMAX-exclusive route in order to build buzz and word-of-mouth?

Anyway, does this news affect your thoughts on Oblivion?  What films do you think (cough-Man of Steel-cough) should go the IMAX-first release route?  Do share below.

Scott Mendelson  

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