IMAX Loses Bet that Audiences ONLY Want 2D with "Blade Runner 2049" Release!

IMAX's bet that 3D was the reason for sagging ticket sales is officially wrong.

Alright, this was proven wrong a month ago, but now we can say without a shadow of a doubt 3D showings have NOT been contributing to lower than hoped for ticket sales!  For those new to the situation, IMAX Corporation announced a few months ago that audiences had spoken: They hate 3D overwhelmingly prefer 2D movies!  Thus, they would be scaling back on IMAX 3D movies, and they would start by releasing "Blade Runner 2049" exclusively in 2D (they also, I want to add, also said they would be showing most movies only one week, and I'll explain why that's important later).  Now, as I wrote about last week, this didn't bother the film makers of the movie.  In fact, both the director AND cinematographer wen ton record stating that 2D was the way the movie was meant to be seen! 

That is probably more of a reason it's only being shown in IMAX 2D as opposed to anything else, but the company needed to show they were doing something - ANYTHING - drastic to show that they were going to do something to lure more people into IMAX theaters!  The problem with this method is that while 2D may indeed have been the film makers intended format to view the movie, but launching war on the 3D fanbase, you actually got many of them (me included) to write scathing articles about how we were NOT going to see the movie in IMAX!  I'm actually going to see the movie in both formats and write a review later on describing which version to see, but I remained skeptical that only showing the movie in 2D would prove any more profitable than usual.  So, how did "Blade Runner 2049" do at the IMAX box office?  Well, as you probably guessed from the headline, it isn't completely good.  However, let's look at box office numbers for IMAX movies that opened this year on their opening weekend (and please keep in mind these are rough estimates from Box Office Mojo):
  • xXx: Return of Xander Cage (3D) - $1.8 million
  • Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (3D) - $800,000
  • The Lego Batman Movie (2D) - $400,000
  • Logan (2D) - $10.1 million
  • Kong: Skull Island (3D) - $7.4 million
  • Beauty and the Beast (3D) - $21 million
  • Ghost in the Shell (3D) - $2.9 million
  • The Fate of the Furious (2D) - $6.7 million
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (3D) - $25 million
  • Alien: Covenant (2D) - $5 million
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (3D) - $8.2 million
  • Wonder Woman (3D) - $12.4 million
  • The Mummy (3D) - $700,000
  • Despicable Me 3 (2D) - $300,000
  • Cars 3 (2D) - $100,000 (yes, "Cars 3" truly is Pixar's least attended film)
  • Transformers: The Last Knight (3D) - $5.2 million
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming (3D) - $13.8 million
  • Dunkirk (2D) - $11.9 million
  • Inhumans (2D) - $2.85 million (this isn't the opening weekend: This is the ENTIRE gross!  This was an IMAX funded exclusive that didn't play in ANY other theaters, and it did worse than just the opening weekend of "Ghost in the Shell")!
  • It (2D) - $8.2 million
Now then, the numbers vary a little bit as IMAX records are not reported on in the most rigorous detail, but these are roughly what the opening box office numbers were for movies that were showing in IMAX.  From the list we can gather a few facts: The three highest grossing opening weekends were for 3D movies ("Beauty & the Beast," "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2," and "Spider-Man: Homecoming").  With the exception of "Beauty and the Beast," the movies that made the most money tended to be the movies that were largely considered 'good' as opposed to 'bad.'  Also, most of these movies stayed in IMAX for more than one week, which is probably why the company really wants to get enough movies to keep content fresh on their screens, as you don't want to get stuck with a stinker any longer than you have to.

Also, judging by the numbers, it appears that good 3D movies are making roughly the same as good 2D movies, so you have to wonder how much IMAX's claim holds up.  Well, let's stop beating around the bush; what did "Blade Runner 2049" ultimately make for IMAX in the opening weekend? 

*drum roll*

That's it.  Purely from a side of finances, it did no better than most 3D bombs and far worse than most 3D successes.  The big announcement that "Blade Runner 2049" would make more money if shown only in 2D has officially proven to be false.  Of course, "Inhumans" sort of proved this a month ago, but since that was a TV pilot that just happened to be screened on IMAX's across America, there was still a little doubt.  With "Blade Runner 2049" there is a 3D version out there, and not having this one in 3D didn't yield in any more money.  Now then, to give IMAX credit in one area, the movie only made $31 million all around, which means this is officially a box office disappointment.  The difference between this movie and most of the ones up there is that if you look at the box office in general, IMAX movies tended to account for somewhere between 5%-12% of the opening total gross.  With "Blade Runner 2049" that number creeps closer to 25%, so that IS an uptake in IMAX ticket sales!

The problem is it doesn't really matter much in a business where accounting is everywhere.  It sort of reminds me when my family went on the Toy Story Mania ride at Disney's California Adventure, where I got the highest score of the family.  My mom - in comparison - got the lowest score.  However, she chalked it up to a win because she had the highest accuracy rate.  I love my mom, but in the real word accuracy and more tickets sold doesn't mean anything if it doesn't result in more money being made.  For that matter, "Beauty and the Beast" and "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" had numbers that took roughly 25% of the opening grosses themselves.  What do all three of these movies have in common?

All three had aspect ratios that were specifically fitted for IMAX theaters, resulting in about 26% more image at the top and bottom of the screen, to make it more immersive on those giant screens (and people wanted to see them in general).  

That may be a bigger selling point than 3D or film is, so IMAX Corporation may want to start investing in more movies being shot with IMAX cameras so that they can brag about having the "true" image on opening weekend.  Regardless what they decide to do in the future, I think it's pretty clear their attempt to make more money with "Blade Runner 2049" by ditching 3D altogether was a wash.  Would it have made more or less if it had been in 3D?  That's hard to say.  I think the box office shows people weren't as interested in this as Warner Bros. hoped they would be in general, but it seems unlikely 3D would have hurt the ticket sales any more.  People usually want to see good movies and will pay for them in IMAX regardless of the picture format.  I don't know why they didn't want to come out and see this movie, but genuinely great movies bombing at the box office is not a new thing, and is another topic for a different article altogether.


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