The saga of the screen adaptation of Marvel’s Inhumans has finally gotten a public assessment, with Imax CEO Rich Gelfond blaming its disappointing reception, at least in theaters, on a “misalignment of customer expectations.”
Corporate-speak translation: movie ticket buyers realized they had paid top dollar for a TV show.
Initially planned as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe at Disney, the film project then became a TV series at ABC, in the vein of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Imax signed on to co-produce and struck a deal to premiere the first two episodes in its large-format theatres for a two-week engagement before it would air on ABC this fall. Box-office receipts of $3.5 million disappointed all involved, and the show drew negative reviews from critics.
Imax signed a deal to co-produce the series and exclusively premiere the first two episodes for two weeks in theater worldwide. The box office reception — $3.5 million—was below Imax’s expectations. With negative buzz already in the air, producers asked during TCA summer press tour about the unusual move to play it in theaters said critics should not judge it based on the version that existed at that time, which they called “not finished.”
Another experiment like Inhumans is not likely for Imax, based on Gelfond’s post-mortem. “Going forward, we intend to take a more conservative approach consistent with the Game of Thrones approach to capital investments and content,” Gelfond said on the call. “We will be more conservative when considering whether to invest our own capital; and if so, to what extent.”
Despite the blemish, Imax reported strong third-quarter results yesterday that exceeded Wall Street estimates. The exhibitor has seen its beleaguered stock spring back to life, with double-digit gains Thursday and another 6% boost today. At mid-session, it was trading at $24.85.
Gelfond addressed the Inhumans problems head-on, while Marvel and ABC execs have avoided it thus far. At last week’s NAB Show New York, Marvel TV head Jeph Loeb and co-head Jim Chory received a production award and sat for a keynote interview about their careers. Approached afterward by Deadline with a question about Inhumans, they walked away without commenting.
“Customers expected a production akin to a mega-budget blockbuster movie, rather than pilots for a television show,” Gelfond said. “Moreover, the fact that this was Marvel IP set the bar at a level you wouldn’t see from other pieces of content or IP because of the reputation and the high production value of Marvel movies.”