Avatar, Cameron: All Time Kings of IMAX

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Avatar is still chugging along, eyes fixed on toppling Titanic as the biggest box office haul of all time. But this is already a movie that’s done more than just alter our perceptions of popularity and profitability (though sequels are already apparently in the works – read our report from Friday here)

Most obvious is the way that Cameron has altered our perception of 3-D filmmaking. What once was a gimmick can now be considered a legitimate aesthetic choice, used to achieve an artistic vision. (Read my morning-after review: Why Avatar should be the future of cinema)

And as much as Avatar has proven the value of 3-D to the world, it’s also demonstrated for Hollywood the next big business model: IMAX 3-D. Over the weekend, Avatar was declared the number one IMAX film of all-time, with a still-growing worldwide IMAX take of $101 million. That blows the previous record – The Polar Express, with $71 million – out of the water. And remember that most of this $101 million comes at a premium price. I know when I saw the film on an IMAX 3-D screen, one ticket cost me $20, with all the extra online charges and fees included. $20 for a movie. Twice as much as normal.

As Hollywood tries to figure out how to make more money, Cameron has single-handedly constructed a whole new business strategy. Not that we haven’t had plenty of other big IMAX titles. But here, he’s thought big on the kind of scale that demands repeat viewings via IMAX. He’s created a spectacle worthy of the venue. And he’s proven that, if you deliver on that imaginative spectacle, the audiences will line up to fully bask in its glory. Produce a big enough vision, and you may not turn profitable in weekend number one, but the fans will turn out week after week after week.

So add IMAX to Avatar’s accolades. Every movie studio exec has already taken stock. Come the summer of 2012, every single title will be a 3-D IMAX spectacle. (must we remind you of why Spider-Man 4 was shelved and rebooted last week, to capitalize on all this?)

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