IMAX’s Decision to Stick With ‘Interstellar’ Over ‘Hunger Games’ Pays Off

The giants screens have delivered more than $90 million globally for Christopher Nolan’s space epic

Last Updated: November 30, 2014 @ 4:37 PM

The decision by IMAX executives earlier this month to stick with “Interstellar” rather than ditching it for the opening of “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1” is looking pretty good right now.

Over the weekend, the fourth for Christopher Nolan‘s space epic, giant screens delivered $7.8 million of the $22 million that “Interstellar” brought in over the five-day holiday. That’s a record 36 percent of the weekend’s grosses for the sci-fi saga, and lifts its domestic total from IMAX screens to $42 million. The 20 highest-grossing locations for the Matthew McConaughey-Anne Hathaway space adventure this weekend were all IMAX.

The numbers are even bigger overseas. It’s taken in more than $49 million on IMAX screens as of Sunday, with several key markets yet to come.

In China alone, where “Interstellar” has been No. 1 for three weeks and grossed $106 million, IMAX has contributed $17 million. That’s behind only this summer’s “Transformers: Age of Extinction.”

“Interstellar” reached $542 million at the global box office this weekend, with roughly $91 million, or 16 percent of that, from IMAX.

“We made the decision for a lot of reasons but our partnership with Chris was at the top of the list.” IMAX President Greg Foster told TheWrap.

Director Nolan shot more than an hour of the movie with IMAX film, which he had earlier utilized on “The Dark Knight” movies. The color, size and scope of “Interstellar” are ideally suited to the massive screens.

Also making the call easier was the willingness of Paramount and Warner Bros., the film’s domestic and international distributors respectively, to make IMAX a centerpiece of the marketing campaign. The space travel subject matter was a good fit too, since IMAX screens are in museums and science centers around the country, including the Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian.

The target audiences for “Interstellar” and “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay” suggested the space epic would be a better play, too. Nolan fans and families were a better bet to go IMAX than the teen girls and young women that dominate the “Hunger Games” audiences.

Of course, there’s no way of knowing how “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay” would have done with the IMAX screens. Its domestic opening came in under projections at $121 million, and analysts estimated the premiums from IMAX might have added $10 million. But it’s done fine since, taking in more than $480 million worldwide without the benefit of IMAX or 3D, which the director eschews.

The move makes sense in the long term for IMAX as well. It further deepens the relationship with Nolan, a filmmaker who should be making movies for many years to come.

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