(click thumbnail)Brandon Routh stars as the man of steel in Warner Bros. Pictures' and Legendary Pictures' action adventure, "Superman Returns."
On June 28, when Warner Bros. releases the latest chapter of the Man of Steel's saga it will be seen in conventional theaters as "Superman Returns" and in giant screen theaters as "Superman Returns: An IMAX 3D Experience". Only the audiences in special IMAX theaters will be able to see three of this $209 million summer blockbuster's most thrilling action sequences fly right off the screen at them, making this the first simultaneous day-and-date release of a live action feature in IMAX 3D.
"We've had a very successful relationship with IMAX for quite a long time," said Dan Fellman, president of domestic distribution at Warner Bros. Pictures. 'The quality of their product and the brand that they bring to the project 'eventizes' our films and we think this is a very important part of the marketing campaign of our tentpole movies. The public knows they will pay a premium to see it, but they also know that what they are going to see will be different from conventional theaters."
A 'WATERSHED EVENT'
"Superman Returns," directed by Bryan Singer, begins after the man in the red cape played by newcomer Brandon Routh returns to Earth after several years searching for other survivors of his doomed home planet Krypton only to face new challenges from the legacy of his relationship with Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) and new threats from super-villains trying to render him powerless once and for all. "Superman Returns" the movie, also has challenges to overcome from the legacy of last year's Hollywood box office slump and new threats from alternative entertainment options such as home theater and HDTV. The hope is that adding the "Superman Returns: An IMAX 3D Experience" release will create enough audience excitement to kick off the post-Memorial Day summer movie season with a hit.
"I think this is a watershed event," said Greg Foster, chairman and president of IMAX Filmed Entertainment. "Warner Bros have been great partners for us and they understand our DMR technology will not only expand the scope of this Superman film, but will also uniquely convert several of its scenes into dazzling 3D."
IMAX Corp. has developed its proprietary DMR (digital re-mastering) process specifically to prepare conventional feature films to be shown on IMAX screens up to 8 stories high and 120-feet wide accompanied by 12,000 W of digital surround sound. Far more than an optical blow-up to the 70mm IMAX film format, the DMR process involves a massive rendering farm to digitally restructure the film's image to meet stringent giant screen requirements.
"Superman Returns: An IMAX 3D Experience" broke even more technical ground since it was shot by DP Newton Thomas Sigel with one of the first of Panavision's new 12.4 megapixel Genesis HD digital cinema cameras.
"We actually shot out tests with a prototype Genesis," Sigel said. "Generally speaking I lit the scenes just as I would have for film. Genesis has some unique characteristics, but mastering them is similar to when Kodak brings out a new film stock and since the imaging chip in the Genesis is the size as a Super 35 film frame, we could use the same film lenses we were accustomed to. The tests I have seen of the IMAX 3D conversion look like a whole new generation of the 3D experience."
A HISTORY OF 3D
This will be the tenth feature from Warner Bros. presented in IMAX theaters since 2003 including DMR releases of the second and third installments of The Matrix trilogy, the third and fourth installments of the Harry Potter series, "Batman Begins," "Poseidon" and "The Polar Express," a CG-animated film which was converted into IMAX 3D. The studio has also released two original IMAX 3D films, "NASCAR 3D: The IMAX Experience" and "Deep Sea 3D."
Stereoscopic feature films have been around since before the talkies, with "The Power of Love" premiering in 3D on Sept. 27, 1922 at the Ambassador Hotel Theater in Los Angeles. Last November, Disney's "Chicken Little" was released in 80 theaters in Disney Digital 3D using the Dolby Digital Cinema system in addition to wide release in conventional theaters. Theaters grossed over 35 percent more in 3D than in 2D, even though most locations were generally limited to 300 seats or less in 3D but had multiple prints in larger auditoriums in 2D. The 3D presentations sold out first, with overflow actually helping the 2D screenings.
Yet although the "Chicken Little" release in 3D was supported by an expansive marketing campaign, its box office take was a reported $8 million compared to the $45 million reaped by the 3D version of "The Polar Express" in its first year when it was shown on about the same number of screens.
These films were shown entirely in 3D while "Superman Returns: An IMAX 3D Experience" will have only three scenes totaling approximately 20 minutes of its footage jumping off the screen. Audiences will see an icon of green glasses appear on the screen when they need to don the polarized specs handed to them upon entry, and a visual cue of red glasses will indicate when they should take them off.
"It was simply a time issue," Fellman said, "and director Singer is a perfectionist. It could take over four months to prepare a 2D film for 3D release. But this should add a lot of enjoyment to the film for those who love IMAX 3D."
Up to 90 IMAX theaters will show "Superman Returns: An IMAX 3D Experience." "This will be the widest release in IMAX 3D ever," IMAX's Foster said. "There are 2D IMAX theaters that are clamoring to upgrade to 3D in time for the June 30 premiere."
The hope is that this will exceed even the success of "The Polar Express" in IMAX 3D. Partially as a result of that film's ticket sales, while the overall Hollywood film industry saw a 6 percent decline in 2005, IMAX posted a 35 percent increase in box office.
"What we are doing is literally revolutionizing the moviegoing process and creating an experience that cannot be replicated at home," Foster said.