The deal is “something we’re doing literally at the last minute,” IMAX Entertainment CEO Greg Foster told investors today at the Stifel Technology, Internet & Media Conference. Although Fifty Shades Of Grey will just run in about 75 of the large screen venues when it’s released this weekend “it’s something I think we have to do” in order to “increase our bandwidth.”
It’s part of IMAX’s growing effort to expand beyond its core audience of fanboys and fangirls and “take some chances” on weeks when it doesn’t have a major franchise release, Foster says. About eight films account for two-thirds of IMAX’s annual box office, but the company wants to boost sales other times during the year. “You’ll win or lose based on those periods with singles or doubles, not home runs.”
The company is coming off a win from its decision to show American Sniper, something IMAX agreed to do about 10 days before it came out. He’s also pleased with the $2 million generated by the large screen showing of two episodes of HBO’s Game Of Thrones. “It was a nice counter programming effort to get young people back into the theater.” Now IMAX is optimistic about week-long runs for Will Smith’s upcoming Focus, and sci-fi film Chappie.
Foster says that audiences are drawn to small, quirky films and blockbusters. “It’s the mid-level movie that’s having quite a big issue” disappointing consumers. “And that’s a business we’re not in. If the movie business doesn’t work in general then it doesn’t work for IMAX.” Last year, “was not a great year and people get out of the habit of going.” IMAX also missed out on two hits, Frozen and The Lego Movie, because “we didn’t do family oriented movies” — in part because execs believed the tickets would be too expensive. “Well, why not?….We’re trying to be more open-minded and nimble.”
Foster adds that he’s enthusiastic about IMAX’s new technologies to expand the sound systems to 12 channels from five, and to use laser projectors that offer brighter and larger images for digital releases. The company also is looking at ways to offer IMAX-branded services outside of large theater screens. “We’re trying to be a bigger part of the puzzle.”