What does The Dark Knight‘s near-record haul mean for the future? Mostly nothing; it would have taken a major disappointment to squash a third Batman film, the actor who gets the biggest bounce out of the picture is dead, superhero movies can’t saturate the marketplace much more than they already are this year, and Christopher Nolan – unless he wins an Oscar – probably isn’t getting the kind of major career promotion he would get if he pulled off the same feat with a non-iconic, non-sequel. In the end, The Dark Knight is an anomaly, and I don’t think anyone is changing the way they do business because of it.
Except for IMAX. That’s the real winner at the end of this summer; The Dark Knight is already the 7th highest grossing IMAX feature, and it’s just behind Fantasia 2000 as the second highest grossing IMAX non-documentary (and the doc numbers are likely skewed, as those probably play forever). The IMAX version of The Dark Knight really got people talking, and I think that it was part of what helped propel the film into ‘phenomenon’ status. The inflated IMAX grosses (tickets are nearly double normal theater prices in some parts of the country) also probably gave TDK the leg up on the last two weekends when the margin between it at number 1 and the challenger at number 2 was fairly small.
In the past IMAX releases have been afterthoughts for major blockbusters. Some of that was technical in nature, and some of that was based on the studios probably not really caring all that much. The IMAX market isn’t that big in comparison – The Dark Knight has made something like 32 million dollars on IMAX screens, less than Pineapple Express made in five days of release – but it’s becoming apparent that it’s a buzz-builder, and that people will make IMAX a destination for their moviegoing.
Now Coming Soon has learned that Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian will both open in regular theaters and IMAX. In comparison, Transformers came to IMAX a month after its initial release. There’s no word on whether these films will have segments especially filmed for IMAX, as The Dark Knight did. I think that is what will make for successful future IMAX day-and-date releases – not movies blown up for the bigger screen, but movies that are designed for it.
I’m also interested in seeing what a shift to IMAX will do to the world of box office. As has been discussed in the Box Office thread on our message boards, The Dark Knight‘s record breaking is meaningless – adjusted for inflation the film only recently hit the top 50, but comparing movies today to films from the 30s through admissions is problematic as filmgoing habits are so different today. There’s no real metric for comparing the success of films throughout history, so really the film’s ‘accomplishment’ of making that much money is kind of empty. And if, as I suspect, IMAX, with its expensive ticket prices, becomes more of a player in the blockbuster game in the next few years, The Dark Knight may not have all that long a reign at the top of the charts.