The slate, which includes this year’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, will stream in the expanded aspect ratio, which shows 26% more of the film image on home screens. The initiative will launch on Friday, which the company has designed as Disney+ Day in a promotional push tied to the anniversary of the streaming service’s launch. Audio specialist DTS is also a participant in the venture.
The default for the films on Disney+ will be Imax’s expanded aspect ratio, which is 1.90:1. Regular widescreen versions of the films also will continue to be available. Because of the evolution of technology, some early titles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, like 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, were shot only partially in Imax. Later, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame were the first titles to be filmed entirely with Imax cameras.
In an interview with Deadline, Imax CEO Rich Gelfond said filmmakers and fans over the past several years have been pressing for a more “Imax-ian” way to present movies in streaming. The company has held talks with several other studios about offering a branded format on other streaming services.
“To me, it enhances the notion that streaming and the Imax theatrical experience are complementary,” Gelfond said. “It’s not either/or. A lot of fans want to experience both.” The partner companies, he said in the official announcement, “are giving the fans what they want: the most immersive viewing experience throughout the life of a Marvel Studios film, from exclusive theatrical release to the library at home.”
Audio specialist DTS is on board to deliver its signature sound work to the Imax versions in streaming, though that element will be added at a later time.
While eagle-eyed fans are likely to scrutinize every frame to find new visuals that will now be part of the frame, the endeavor is different from projects like overhauling The Simpsons. When Disney in 2020 revisited the Fox animated classic, developing both 4:3 and 16:9 versions for Disney+, the team had to acknowledge the very different media landscape of the late-20th century, when the show was first getting established. The idea of widescreen technology — or affordably priced 70-inch TV sets — had not yet dawned on the creative community or viewers watching VHS tapes and DVDs at home.
Marvel movies, by contrast, have been an Imax phenomenon since 2010, with total Imax box office for the MCU at $1.6 billion and counting. Compositions are generally created in such a way that the extra screen real estate isn’t a game-changer for the story or the experience. Still, even if there won’t likely be a great number of Simpsons-like discoveries in that extra 26% of the screen, the spectacle undoubtedly will be more grand, especially in the living rooms of today.
In addition to Shang-Chi, the roster includes Iron Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Captain America: Civil War, Doctor Strange, Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame and Black Widow. Because Disney+ is now in dozens of countries, the companies said the availability of given films will vary by region.
“We’re thrilled to create new value for Marvel fans and audiences on Disney+, and we’re looking forward to offering even more Imax Enhanced functionality in the future,” said Michael Paull, president of Disney+ and ESPN+.
Disney+ Day, marking the second anniversary of the launch of Disney+, will feature a range of new content releases, fan experiences and exclusive offers. The Walt Disney Company will update subscriber numbers for Disney+ on Wednesday when it reports quarterly earnings. As of July, the company reported last quarter, the service had reached 116 million subscribers. That is halfway to the company’s stated goal of 230 million-260 million by late 2024.
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