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Happy ‘Returns’ in China

Pic's Imax 3-D version breaks B.O. record

“Superman Returns” has given Chinese theaters a super boost.

Pic brought in a boffo $4 million over six days on 360 screens in mainland theaters and broke China’s one-day, one-venue box office record with $19,360 at the Shanghai He Ping Imax on Saturday.

The previous record at the Shanghai theater was broken last month by “Poseidon,” also a Warner Bros. release, which at $13,624 narrowly squeaked past the previous record holder, “Spider-Man.” Both were 2-D Imax prints.

“Superman Returns” is the first commercially released feature to convert portions from 2-D to 3-D Imax — an expensive process used on 20 minutes of the film.

According to the Beijing News, 62% of audience members polled after seeing the standard 35mm “Superman Returns” said they also would see the Imax 3-D version of the film, even though the $7.50 ticket price is double what many regular theaters charge.

Industry watchers were keen to see whether the film would capture crowds now accustomed to seeing U.S. movies on pirated DVDs that cost just 65¢.

But the Imax 3-D version — which is uniquely theatrical and cannot be pirated — has generated lines in Shanghai and anticipation in Beijing, where a rain-damaged print meant pic was unable to unspool.

The Beijing theater offered refunds to auds, but many opted to wait for the Imax version.

Imax screenings can represent a significant chunk — perhaps 5% — of a film’s total perf at the mainland box office.

“Superman Return’s” Imax 3-D run could last until the opening of Sony’s animated feature “Open Season,” which is hoping for a day-and-date release in September.

“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” has not passed censorship in China, leaving “Superman” a clear run this month. “Mission: Impossible III,” after much controversy and a few deletions, opens here July 20.

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