Imax has become the favored destination for audiences looking to watch the Millennium Falcon rocket across the widest screens available.
The premium theaters are getting a big boost from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” both in the United States and around the world. Through last weekend, the film has made a massive $152 million from Imax showings globally, making it the second highest-grossing release in the company’s history. It has a very strong chance of overtaking “Avatar” and its $243.3 million global haul once it opens next weekend in China, where it will screen on 268 Imax locations.
“Imax and ‘Star Wars’ were tailor-made for each other,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Rentrak. “You’re melding the immersiveness of Imax with the thrill of ‘Star Wars.'”
Domestically, Imax plans to show “The Force Awakens” at least until “Deadpool” debuts on Feb. 12, and possibly even beyond that date. The film will cede some screens to the adventure film “The Finest Hours,” when the drama about a Coast Guard rescue mission bows on Jan. 29, although the exact number has yet to be determined. Typically, a film holds Imax screens for two or three weeks, but “The Force Awakens” will likely triple that number by the time it wraps up its run.
In an interview a week ago, Imax Entertainment CEO Greg Foster noted the company had benefited from J.J. Abrams’ decision to film a key sequence using Imax cameras.
“There’s a connection being created in terms of Imax and it’s allowed us to break out from the pack,” he said. “The grosses are just incredible and there’s no sign of slowing down.”
The film is reaching high-water marks at a record pace. “The Force Awakens” reached its current Imax grosses in 19 days, whereas it took “Avatar” 47 days to hit the same number and it had the benefit of having opened in China by that point. The North American Imax results stand at $98.2 million, the second best in the company’s history, and it should cross $100 million early next week.
The film’s success has yet to be reflected in Imax’s stock price, however. The company’s shares closed down 1.61% at $35.54 on Thursday. Some analysts are concerned over reports that Disney, the studio behind the “Star Wars” franchise, is demanding a higher stake of receipts from exhibitors than it typically requests, cutting into their profits.
Imax isn’t the only company getting a “Star Wars” uplift. “The Force Awakens” is doing well in premium formats. Last weekend, it earned 45% of its gross from 3D locations, according to Rentrak.