The Indie Week That Was

Mid-May Analysis

By Michael Lynderey

June 11, 2009

Is this a bad time to mention I'm afraid of heights?

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Logic dictates that the film's theatrical run, having so far amassed $212,000, is close to over. The studio might, I suppose, try to give the film another expansion, but I think it's now fruitless. The really die-hard fans of Pattinson probably saw it already, and the rest seem to be occupying the position of a Silent Majority.

They're biding their time until the inevitable sequel to you-know-what.

The wonderful world of IMAX

Back in the olden days, some movies used to play in theaters for years. After all, with no VHS, DVD, Netflix, or any other ludicrously advanced technology available, filmwatchers actually had to take a trip down to the movie theater if they wanted see a movie right now; the only other option was to let the TV programmers play with your life, and wait until the film you wanted to see came on television. And that could take years!

But as times changed, movie runs started getting shorter and shorter, until even most blockbusters pack up their reels and wave goodbye within a few weeks (are those copies of Fast & Furious I see being loaded into Blockbuster?). But there is one exception. The IMAX Film.

While a lot of general-release Hollywood films play in the 200+ IMAX theaters in North America, only a few movies are actually made directly for the IMAX screen. They're all documentaries with a lot of pretty pictures, and the setting can be anywhere - deserts, oceans, space. The running time usually clocks in under one hour and, as with all IMAX films, tickets are more expensive.

There are a number of IMAX documentaries in release at any given moment, but the one I want to focus on is Space Station 3-D. This one's really the granddaddy of them all - the big cheese - the movie all other IMAX films wish they could one day grow up to be. It has quietly amassed, thus far, $78.7 million dollars, and it could make it to the $100 million mark. Possibly even in our lifetime.


Space-Station 3-D is about the International Space Station, which began construction in 1998 and may actually be completed one of these days. Like most IMAX documentaries, this one was narrated by a big star - no less than Tom Cruise himself. The film opened on April 19, 2002, the same day as another leggy beast of a film, My Big Fat Greek Wedding. It's remarkable that the third film released on that day, the $90 million-making Scorpion King, will eventually come to be out-grossed not by one, but two, unlikely contenders. The first weekend for Space Station was strong, opening at #22 and pulling in $489,488 on a measly 24 slots. It came in just two spots below Greek Wedding, which grossed $597,362 in 108 theaters; the Scorpion King, meanwhile, opened with $36.1 million and thus, for a few months, held the record for highest opening film not to reach $100 million.

But IMAX films don't drop big - they even rise. Next week, an expansion to 28 theaters, netted in $562,912. The movie spent May expanding to 50 screens, and having its worst drop be 13.5%; the total at this point had reached $6.2 million. By the 4th of July weekend, the movie had gotten to 60 IMAX theaters, a region it would stick around in until November. During most of the summer, it fluctuated between drops no worse than 13% and rises no bigger than 26%, reaching a total of $22.2 million by August's end. By December 31, 2002, Space Station had pulled in $29.8 million, although its screen count had deflated through the fall, down to 44, and the drops started getting nastier.

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