'Gravity' Passes $100M In IMAX
Feb 7, 2014

As the headline states, Gravity has become the third film in history to earn $100 million worldwide in IMAX engagements alone. For the record, the other two films were Avatar and The Dark Knight Rises.  Avatar earned $2.78 billion globally and The Dark Knight Rises earned $1.084 billion worldwide. Comparatively, Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity has earned “just” $695 million worldwide. Thus, the $100m benchmark is especially worthwhile considering the much larger percentage of tickets sold in the large-screen format, in this case about 15% of its total gross.

Released back in October of last year, Warner Bros.’ (a division of Time Warner) Gravity has thus far earned $48.6 million domestic and $51.5m worldwide, for an IMAX cume of $100.1m. Obviously the “IMAX experience” has massively expanded in the last six years, with the somewhat “controversial” IMAX digital theaters (smaller in size than the traditional IMAX theater and using digital projection) popping up worldwide in late 2008. Come what may, this allowed far more portions of the globe to be able to experience a film in IMAX if they so chose. And a handful of directors, such as Chris Nolan (The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises), Michael Bay (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen), Brad Bird (Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol), J.J. Abrams  (Star Trek Into Darkness), and Francis Lawrence (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) have actually chosen to shoot portions of their tent pole blockbusters on IMAX cameras.

Feature films have been going the proverbial IMAX route for limited engagements since at least 2002, when George Lucas cut a 120-minute version of Star Wars: Episode Two: Attack of the Clones for IMAX exhibition late into its theatrical run. Once said theaters starting being able to run films longer than two hours, we started seeing films like Spider-Man 2 (the first Spider-Man 2, natch) running in IMAX in 2004 late into their theatrical engagement. The arguable game-changer coming that November when IMAX ran exclusive engagements of the eye-popping 3D version of The Polar Express. I’ll be discussing that more in November but, for the next four years, we saw other films (Batman BeginsSpider-Man 3, etc.) go out in IMAX alongside their 35mm releases.

The other big development was of course Chris Nolan’s choice to shoot about 45 minutes of The Dark Knight on IMAX cameras, which all-but-single-handedly made the large-screen format the “cool” thing to do for tent poles as The Dark Knight earned $533 million domestic and $1b worldwide. But the crowning of IMAX as the next-big-thing was put off by James Cameron’s Avatar, which made 3D the thing to do for the last four years. But as 3D wore out its welcome with domestic audiences thanks to rushed and needless conversions.

IMAX is slowly again becoming the proverbial “premium” theatrical experience, best evidenced by the early releases of Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Skyfall, and Star Trek Into Darkness in the format prior to regular theatrical release.  On the other hand, an IMAX release has become almost the new normal, with films both grand (Gravity) and not-so-grand (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit) going out in IMAX along with conventional 2D and/or 3D exhibitions. A double-edged sword, but worth noting nonetheless.

Read the full 'Gravity' Passes $100M In IMAX' article on Forbes.