Box office hit a triumph at large-screen theaters

Zack Snyder’s muscle-bound “300” hasn’t only been a surprise B.O. boon for Warner Bros.

Pic has also been a hit for IMAX as the large-screen unit’s biggest opening weekend ever: Graphic novel adaptation bowed to a $54,500 per-screen average off 62 IMAX runs.

When “300” tumbled 56% for Warners in its second frame, IMAX screens dipped much more marginally as the pic scored repeat biz and $43,000 per screen.

With that number, pic was the most profitable soph sesh ever for IMAX.

Behind the numbers, “300” reps the latest step in a years-long campaign to shift the IMAX brand from a perceived pure purveyor of nature docus and other museum-friendly fare into a multiplex experience that will entice auds to theaters.

IMAX brass says that, with f/x heavy “300,” the company has been courting the “techie crowd,” a supposedly difficult demo to capture as its comprised of vidgame players and DVD watchers.

“Where we used to be about 2-D movies with Walter Cronkite narrating, we moved to 3-D films with Tom Cruise narrating,” said Greg Foster, chairman-president of IMAX Filmed Entertainment. “So if the far left is educational films, and the far right is entertainment, we used to be way left, and now are leaning right. We have re-defined our audience, and ‘300’ captured the audience we are going for – this elusive techie crowd.”

IMAX’s move to capture such tech-heads seems timely after a recent survey — commissioned by the Motion Picture Assn. of America and Nielsen Entertainment/NRG — suggesting that such auds are actually eager to head to the movies for certain types of films: the more home entertainment technology a consumer owns, the more likely he is to go out to theaters, indicated the data.

IMAX is also hoping to strike gold in the int’l marketplace with “300.” Pic opens in the U.K., Spain and Mexico this weekend, and the epic has already had strong plays in South Korea and Taiwan.

In step with the high hopes the industry has for this summer, Foster sees Sony’s “Spider-Man 3″ and Warners’ fifth “Harry Potter” as giving IMAX even bigger bows than “300.”

Now all the company needs is to get its accounting department working as smoothly as its Hollywood film unit after uncovering $2.5 million worth of errors in its books this month.

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