With nearly 700 screens across the globe and counting, IMAX shows no sign of fading away anytime soon. In the last decade, the popularity of the format has skyrocketed as more films are being released in both IMAX and IMAX 3D. Warner Bros. has given the format an additional vote of confidence by extending an agreement for IMAX content that was originally signed back in 2003.
The original agreement resulted in films like “The Dark Knight Rises,” the final installment in Christopher Nolan’s stellar take on Batman, being show on IMAX screens. For special movies like this, Warner Bros. and other distributers would often release the film on IMAX screens hours before their official release on regular screens, which made audiences even more eager to shell out the premium price for the special screenings. Building anticipation like this is a key component of IMAX’s rise from relative obscurity to cinema powerhouse.
The extension is for three years, over which Warner Bros. agrees to screen up to twenty films in the IMAX format. Though a full or partial list was not released with the announcement, that did not stop film fans from eagerly guessing which films would be given the full IMAX treatment.
Warner Bros. has quite a few big event films coming out in the next year. First, they are attempting a reboot of the stalled Superman franchise with “Man of Steel,” which is slated for release on June 14, 2013. It is almost a foregone conclusion that the film will be released in IMAX because all the recent superhero films like “The Avengers” and “The Dark Knight Rises” have been released in the format. These movies are very expensive to make because of the expensive stunt work and extensive use of computer-generated images (CGI) after filming has finished. The premium price of IMAX and IMAX 3D help recoup some of those enormous costs.
Another Warner Bros. film that is sure to be a part of the agreement is the much-anticipated “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” which is penciled in for a December 13, 2013 release. It will be the sequel to “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” which will land in theaters on December 14, 2012. “An Unexpected Journey” is not a part of the new IMAX deal because it is being released in 2012, which is still a part of the old deal. The new deal kicks does not kick in until 2013, which is why the sequel will probably be a part of it. The final installment in these prequels to the epic “Lord of the Rings” trilogy will be released in 2014, and will most likely be a part of this deal as well.
“Jack the Giant Slayer” is also thought to be a candidate for the new deal because the fairy tale setting and use of giants as characters lends itself well to the IMAX experience. It will star Ewan McGregor (“Trainspotting”), Stanley Tucci (“The Hunger Games”), and Bill Nighy (“Love, Actually”) in an action/adventure film directed by Bryan Singer.
The sci-fi genre also lends itself well to the larger IMAX screens, so “Pacific Rim” will likely help fulfill the deal as well. It is being directed by Guillermo Del Toro, the Spanish director known for lush graphics and use of CGI in films like “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “Hellboy,” so it will probably be a visually gorgeous film. It stars Charlie Hunnam (“Sons of Anarchy”) and Idris Elba (“Thor”) and will be released on July 12, 2013.
There is also a rumored Justice League movie in the works, though no details about casting, writing, or directing have been announced by Warner Bros. Speculation as to whether the proposed movie would even make into production, must less be show in an IMAX theater, began in earnest as soon as Warner Bros. made their announcement. The Justice League is a comic book series that includes such storied superheroes as Wonder Woman, Batman, Superman, and more from D.C. Comics. If such a film ever does get made, it would surely be a part of this deal, should it be released within the three year timeframe that the deal covers.
Even if the film is released after the deal expires, it would most likely be a part of a new deal. As long as audiences are willing to pay for the premium experience that IMAX provides, there is no reason why Warner Bros. would not try to extend this deal again in the future.