Imax Stomps to Biggest Domestic Weekend in 16 Months With $4.5 Million ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ Opening

Imax April 4 reported its biggest domestic opening weekend in more than a year as Warner/Legendary’s Godzilla vs. Kong generated $4.5 million in ticket sales across 284 3D screens. The exhibitor said more than 1,000 domestic Imax shows were sold-out over the five-day opening, nearly 25% of all showtimes over that period. Globally, the monster box office hit continued to smash expectations, earning $13 million across all markets.

Godzilla vs. Kong has emerged as a symbol of the enduring strength of the theatrical experience for blockbuster filmmaking, delivering great box office even with many theatres still closed and significant capacity restrictions,” Rich Gelfond, CEO of Imax, said in a statement. “Make no mistake — this film has become a global event because it received a global theatrical release, and the phenomenal pipeline of tentpole films ahead have the chance to capitalize on the same opportunity.”

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Despite 25% capacity limits in North America, a particularly challenging environment for Imax given its theater design, and a day-and-date release on HBO Max, Godzilla vs. Kong now stands as Imax’s best domestic opening since January 2020. Imax accounted for 9.3% of the overall weekend box office domestically. Notably, many capacity restrictions, including the 25% limit in California, are scheduled to be eased in the coming weeks.

The film continued its success globally, earning another $6.5 million since Wednesday in China, while reaching a 10-day total of $18 million, over 13% of the nationwide box office and the highest 10-day total of the “Monsterverse” franchise ever for Imax China. The to-date gross is already nearly double the final Imax China box office for Kong: Skull Island and Godzilla: King of the Monsters.

The impressive results follow a pandemic-best opening internationally for the film a week earlier, with some markets increasing their Imax box office over last weekend’s openings. The exhibitor has generated $28 million across all markets globally for the film to-date, 10% of the overall total.

Godzilla vs. Kong will continue its run in Imax through April 21 in domestic markets and mid-to-late April in most international markets, including China, with openings in Brazil and Japan, scheduled for April 29 and May 14, respectively.

Imax Scores Biggest International Opening Weekend Box Office With ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’

Imax scored an knockout with the international debut for Godzilla vs. Kong, earning $12.4 million for the weekend across 891 screens in 40 markets worldwide. In a positive sign as the summer theatrical movie season approaches, Warner and Legendary Pictures’ epic kaiju clash scored the biggest opening weekend in Imax for a Hollywood film since December 2019.

China led the way as the highest grossing Imax market with $9.4 million in weekend box office — good for 14% of the film’s total Chinese box office on only 1% of screens in the market. Worldwide, Imax delivered 10% of the film’s weekend box office despite accounting for just 1% of screens — continuing the 3D exhibitor’s history of strong market share with the “Monsterverse” franchise.

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Godzilla vs. Kong expands to at least 1170 Imax screens worldwide on March 31 when it debuts in North America — where pre-sales have been brisk with multiple shows already sold out across top-performing Imax locations.

Godzilla vs. Kong demands to be seen on the biggest screen possible and audiences worldwide are answering the call — continuing to drive market share gains for Imax and proving there is real business to be done for Hollywood blockbusters,” Rich Gelfond, CEO of Imax, said in a statement. “We are particularly encouraged by the film’s strong debut in China, where audiences turned out in a big way for this Hollywood franchise.”

Godzilla vs. Kong currently stands as king among the films in the “Monsterverse,” winning the franchise’s biggest Imax opening weekend in 13 markets, including China, India and Russia. In China, Imax screens are featured in each of the film’s Top 10 highest grossing theaters. Despite capacity limitations of up to 50%, numerous markets delivered healthy per screen averages in theaters, including Australia ($63,000), Hong Kong ($51,000), Saudi Arabia ($43,000), Thailand ($31,00), UAE ($21,000) and Singapore ($21,000).

 

Imax Extending Warner’s ‘Tenet’ Theatrical Run

Imax March 22 announced it would extend the current theatrical run of Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi thriller Tenet until March 30, following 3D screen debuts in New York and Los Angeles with more than 30 sold out shows.

Shot using a mixture of Imax and 70mm film, Tenet debuted on four Imax screens New York on March 12 and another eight screens in Los Angeles on March 19 — pushing the film’s total Imax gross to $42.2 million since its initial release in August 2020.

Filming ‘Tenet’ in 70mm Imax digital

The extended run includes the exclusive 70mm presentation at AMC Lincoln Square and at AMC Universal City, as well as its “Imax with Laser” presentation across locations in New York and Los Angeles until March 30.

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Since last weekend, Tenet has sold out Imax screenings at five of eight Southern California locations on both Friday and Saturday night prime performances, including AMC Century City, Burbank, Universal City, Norwalk, and Ontario Mills. Both New York and Los Angeles theaters currently are limited to 25% capacity.

‘Avatar’ Reclaims All-Time Box Office Crown Following Imax China Re-Release

A new generation of Chinese moviegoers this weekend flocked to the virtual world of Pandora, as Imax Corporation generated $6.2 million at the box office with the re-release of James Cameron’s 2009 sci-fi epic Avatar, helping it reclaim the all-time box office crown.

Imax theaters captured 30% of the movie’s weekend box office, despite accounting for only 1% of screens in the market. The strong performance helped Avatar once again become the top-grossing theatrical release of all time with more than $2.8 billion in ticket sales. Imax has now earned a lifetime box office of $249.5 million with Avatar, which remains the highest-grossing film in the high-definition 3D format.

“A big-screen sized thank you to Imax for their contribution to the success of Avatar at the box office,” producer Jon Landau said in a statement.

Imax CEO Rich Gelfond says Avatar changed “everything” for the exhibitor’s business model — catapulting brand awareness, notably in China.

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“Yet again, Chinese moviegoers are demonstrating the pent-up demand for theatrical blockbusters that awaits cinemas around the world as they reopen,” Gelfond said.

The original 2010 Imax 3D release of Avatar in China generated $24 million on only 14 screens — a per screen average of $1.7 million — and playing to round-the-clock sold out shows. The film jumpstarted Imax’s ascent to become one of the most recognized entertainment brands in China.

The following year, the exhibitor signed a 75-theater deal with Wanda — at the time the company’s biggest international theater deal ever — and established Imax China as its own wholly-owned subsidiary of the company. Today, China is Imax’s biggest market in terms of theaters with more than 700, and the market accounts for approximately one-third of the company’s annual global box office.

Nine out of the top 10 performing Chinese theaters screening Avatar over the weekend were Imax, and the film is the highest grossing re-release in 3D since Chinese theaters reopened in July.

With this weekend’s re-release, Avatar reclaimed the box office crown it relinquished to Disney/Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Endgame in 2019. Imax holds a piece of the history of both films. Avengers: Endgame continues to hold the record for the biggest opening weekend of any Imax film ever, with $91.5 million worldwide, and was the second Hollywood film ever to be shot entirely with Imax cameras.

The second and third installments of the “Avatar” franchise are currently slated for December 2022 and 2024, respectively.

Imax Corp. Posts Record-Breaking Weekend Box Office — in China

While U.S. movie exhibitors continue to languish from government-mandated closures and wary moviegoers due to the pandemic, Imax just recorded its best-ever weekend box office in China — where the coronavirus outbreak began.

The 3D exhibitor soared to its best-ever opening weekend for the Chinese New Year holiday, grossing $25 million through Feb. 14 as the country kicked off its pinnacle box office period. Despite a continued capacity limitation of at least 75% across China, Imax grew opening weekend box office 45% over its record-breaking 2019, when Chinese cinemas were last open for the holiday.

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Shot entirely with Imax cameras, the comedy franchise film Detective Chinatown 3 led the way with $23.5 million — Imax’s biggest three-day opening weekend ever for a Chinese film. Imax captured 6% of the film’s weekend box office, despite accounting for only 1% of overall screens. Friday, Feb. 12 marked the first time Imax generated more than 1 million admissions in a single day in any global market — China or otherwise.

In a strategic effort to embrace local-language filmmaking, grow its network, and strengthen its brand in China, Imax continues to make a significant comeback at the Chinese box office. The exhibitor has grossed $126 million since theaters first reopened in China last July — with box office up 28% in December and 140% in January — despite continued capacity limitations across the country and a lack of new Hollywood movies in the market.

The tally represents 44% of the comparable U.S. weekend box office total of $286.7 million from July 2020 through January 2021.

“Given our recent success at the Chinese box office, we suspected our fans would turn out for Chinese New Year in a big way, but these early returns have blown away even our most optimistic projections,” CEO Rich Gelfond said in a statement. “With record-breaking box office, strong market share, and multiple releases filmed in Imax, this is an important milestone on our road to recovery at the global box office and our long, successful history in China.”

For the first time, the Chinese New Year slate featured an additional two Imax releases, including A Writer’s Odyssey, which includes more than an hour of exclusive and expanded aspect ratio content. New Gods: Nezha Reborn” marked the debut of a new animated franchise. All three films scored high with audiences, with Maoyan scores exceeding 8.8.

“Imax is on the leading edge of the strong box office recovery in China, with audiences emerging from the pandemic and seeking out the most immersive theatrical experience in the world,” said Edwin Tan, CEO of Imax China.

PVOD Resonating With Consumers; Jury Still Out for Hollywood, Pundits

Premium video-on-demand, the expensive version of transactional digital movie rentals offering consumers in-home early access to theatrical titles, continues to see a renaissance.

With 65% of major theatrical markets shuttered due to the pandemic, new data through Feb. 1 saw $19.99 PVOD releases Greenland (STX Entertainment), News of the World (Universal Pictures), Promising Young Woman (Focus Features), The Croods: A New Age (Universal/DreamWorks Animation), Our Friend (Gravitas Ventures) and Fatale (Lionsgate) rank among the Top 10 digital movies rented by consumers across Apple TV, FandangoNow, Spectrum TV and Google Play.

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After a failed 2011 attempt by Universal Pictures to jumpstart PVOD by offering actioner Tower Heist directly in the home for $59.99, the distribution channel made a less-expensive ($19.99) comeback last year early in the pandemic when the studio disclosed it had generated $100 million in revenue from 5 million transactions in 28 days offering erstwhile theatrical sequel Trolls World Tour directly to consumers at home.

Thus, Universal took PVOD firmly by the horns, hammering out shortened theatrical window agreements with AMC Theatres and Cinemark in order to get its movies into home entertainment channels faster — and with good reason. Studios keep about 80% of all digital transactions, compared with 50% of theatrical.

“The results for Trolls World Tour have exceeded our expectations and demonstrated the viability of PVOD. As soon as theaters reopen, we expect to release movies on both formats,” said NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell.

Indeed, Universal released the Judd Apatow comedy The King of Staten Island on PVOD in June. It also rushed out early transactional VOD access to The Invisible Man, The Hunt, Emma and Never Rarely Sometimes Always, among others.

Other studios have tepidly followed, with Warner Bros. Pictures debuting Scoob! on  May 15, and Disney launching Mulan into the home on Labor Day weekend  — the latter initially as a $29.99 purchase-only option to Disney+ subscribers.

“The silver lining to 2020 from a theatrical perspective is that studios have had the opportunity to test the feared PVOD window, with the results not as compelling as many had expected, and not as damaging to the exhibitors as feared,” Michael Pachter, media analyst with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, wrote in a note.

Indeed, as PVOD has become normalized, scant information exists about actual sales generated by consumers. Nielsen recently announced it would begin tracking PVOD across living room televisions. Just released industry data from DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group did not include PVOD transactions among the $2.3 billion consumers spent renting movies and other filmed content through digital retailers in 2020 — up from less than $2 billion in 2019.

“We think that PVOD is here to stay, and it really is a big part of our business,” Fandango SVP Mark Young told a recent industry panel. NBCUniversal-owned Fandango operates transactional VOD services Vudu and FandangoNow.

Yet major theatrical distributor Imax believes PVOD remains a fluke driven by rollercoaster consumer behavior during a pandemic.

“To be unequivocal, PVOD is a failed experiment,” CEO Rich Gelfond told a virtual investor confab last September. “The numbers haven’t worked in a pandemic, so how would they work in a non-pandemic? Of the movies that were postponed, very few went into PVOD or streaming, and I should be clear I’m talking about the blockbuster movies — the movies that Imax does.”

Wedbush’s Pachter contends studios largely agree, continuing to postpone major releases into 2021 and later, showing they prefer a theatrical release over PVOD.

In the meantime, more movies are likely to go to subscription VOD platforms flush with cash and willing to spend it licensing content.

“We expect more films to shift to streaming as subscription services seek more video content after heightened consumption [and subscriber growth] coupled with several months of halted productions in the pandemic,” Pachter said.

Warner’s ‘Tenet’ Generates $53 Million International Weekend Box Office

Hollywood got its first sense of normalcy at the box office after Warner Bros.’ espionage thriller Tenet, from director Christopher Nolan, generated more than $53 million Aug. 26 to 30 at the international box office. The film opens in the U.S. and China next weekend.

The much-hyped (and delayed) movie has been pegged by exhibitors and studios as a key barometer whether consumers return to the movies in the COVID-19 era. Tenet is the strongest international opening weekend (in 41 markets, including Canada) for a Nolan movie, which includes The Dark Knight.

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Tenet, which stars John David Washington and Robert Pattinson, among others, opened biggest in the United Kingdom with $7.1 million in ticket sales, followed by France ($6.7 million), Korea ($5.1 million) and Germany ($4.2 million).

With Nolan a fan of 70mm films (and 4K UHD Blu-ray), Tenet performed well at Imax screens, generating more than $5 million in revenue.

“People have been very anxious to get back to the movies,” Megan Colligan, president of Imax Entertainment, told Variety. “These results speak to that.”

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Toby Emmerich, chairman of Warner Bros. Pictures Group, said the return to box office normalcy is a marathon, not a sprint. Some Wall Street analysts contend consumers won’t feel comfortable returning to the box office without a COVID-19 vaccine is available.

Regardless, Emmerich believes Tenet has a long theatrical run ahead.

“We are off to a fantastic start internationally and couldn’t be more pleased,” he said in a statement. “Christopher Nolan has once again delivered an event-worthy motion picture that demands to be seen on the big screen.”

Analyst: Imax ‘Insulated’ From Streaming, PVOD Threat

With its massive 72 feet by 53 feet screen — about 10 times bigger than 35mm film — Imax theaters deliver oversized movie screen images with surround sound. Those attributes are what some observers believe makes the company immune to threats from streaming and premium VOD.

The company reported second-quarter (ended June 30) revenue of $8.9 million, which was down 92% from revenue of $104 million in the previous-year period.

Michael Pachter, media analyst with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, said Imax’s financials remain unimportant until the pandemic ends. He expects the exhibitor to resume “impressive top and bottom-line” growth once a vaccine is found and introduced into the market.

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“We do not think Imax’s survival is at risk,” Pachter wrote.

Additionally, with AMC Theatres upending the traditional box office window by allowing Universal Pictures to deliver new-release movies into consumer homes just 17 days after their theatrical bow, the analyst says Imax’s unique consumer offering makes it immune from PVOD and subscription streaming services.

“Imax screens are largely insulated from the threat of streaming services, we expect [the company] to resume expanding its market share,” Pachter wrote. “We think Imax is best positioned within theatrical exhibition for a full rebound.”

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That said, the analyst contends the overall health of the box office is key to Imax’s return to screen growth and could take some take time. Pachter said Imax would benefit if more studios choose to release films internationally and in China before domestically.

“Should screen growth resume earlier, we would expect the [Imax] share price to materially improve,” he wrote.

Imax Documentaries Headed to Hulu

With most movie theaters, including Imax screens, still shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic, Imax has reportedly inked a deal with Disney-owned Hulu to stream a slate of 16 theatrical documentaries on the SVOD platform beginning this summer.

Titles include Pandas, Into the Deep, Space Station and A Beautiful Planet, Superpower Dogs, the Oscar-nominated Fires of Kuwait, Galapagos, Hail Columbia! and Journey to the South Pacific, among others.

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“With people at home there is an immense and growing desire for discovery, particularly for students, families and children. For years Imax has helped share the power of the natural world and the potential of human existence, and now, together with Hulu, we can bring those incredible, enlightening experiences to millions more,” Megan Colligan, president of Imax Entertainment, said in a statement.

Since the first Imax film, Tiger Child, debuted at Expo ’70 in Osaka, Japan, Imax has helped transport audiences into realistic screen images across more than 75 documentaries using proprietary technology. Imax originals have been nominated for Academy Awards (Fires of Kuwait 1992), traveled to the depths of the sea (Journey to the South Pacific 2013), and ventured into space 24 times.

Hollywood’s stars lending their voices to Imax docs, include narrations from Tom Cruise (Space Station 2002), Jennifer Lawrence (A Beautiful Planet 2016), Kristen Bell (Pandas 2018), and more. The forthcoming Asteroid Hunters is narrated by Daisy Ridley.

Many of the Imax docs headed to Hulu have also been filmed or digitally remastered with brilliant, proprietary visual and audio technology.

Colligan says that despite Hulu featuring Imax’s coveted screen and sound features, it will still be able to convey to streamers specific world experiences and information about science and exploration, among other topics.

“[Hulu is] absolutely crafted for immersive sound and the immersive screen,” she said. “School has ended and many kids and families across the country are searching for co-viewing content.”

Shout! Factory Sets Home Release Date for Imax D-Day Doc

Shout! Factory has announced a May 5 home release date for Imax D-Day: Normandy 1944, a Tom Brokaw-narrated documentary that will be available for home viewing on 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray Disc.

The documentary was specially filmed for Imax and giant-screen theaters.

Disc one includes the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray widescreen version and disc two includes the regular Blu-ray 1080p HD widescreen version. The release also includes an original music score performed by the London Symphony Orchestra.

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D-Day: Normandy 1944 covers the critical World War II developments of late 1943 to August 1944, detailing the events that led up to, as well as the aftermath of, the famous June 6, 1944, Allied invasion of Normandy, France. Exploring history, military strategy, science, technology, and the enduring human spirit, the film allows audiences of all ages to discover, from a new perspective, how this landing changed the world.

Bonus features include separate interviews with director Pascal Vuong, narrator Tom Brokaw, and historical advisor Pete Herrly, and two behind-the scenes featurettes — one on Normandy and the other on sand animation.