Summer tentpoles battle for IMAX screens

Hollywood’s elite battle for IMAX screens

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The Future. Next month, both Oppenheimer and Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part I are hitting the big screens… but both movies are in a pitched battle for the largest screen of all: IMAX. While Mission would likely make more at the box office, IMAX is staying true to its word to keep Oppenheimer on its screen for most of the month. More than anything, the high-stakes battle may demonstrate that while moviegoing may take a while to recover, there’s never been more demand to watch blockbusters in the most epic way possible.

No Cruise control
IMAX is hosting the biggest cinematic fight of the summer: Chris Nolan vs. Tom Cruise.

  • The battle: Mission: Impossible is only playing in IMAX for one week before Oppenheimer rolls into town and takes over all the screens. So, Tom Cruise is calling exhibitors and trying to get them to reconsider, citing the success of Top Gun: Maverick.
  • The context: The problem is that Nolan, the closest thing IMAX has to a brand ambassador, got Universal to agree to rent out all 401 IMAX screens in North America for three weeks as part of his deal for Oppenheimer — an agreement made over two years ago.
  • The stakes: While domestic theater attendance is still down 33% from 2019, IMAX is up 50%. That means people really want to see movies in large premium formats, which can account for 30-40% of a blockbuster’s overall revenue.

While Tom Cruise is a guy used to getting what he wants — just look at the behind-the-scenes struggle to keep Top Gun from selling to a streamer — there’s not much Paramount (the studio behind Mission) can do to change IMAX’s mind. The exhibitor has an outsized hand in determining what movies can play on its screen and for how long.

But, there still may be hope for Mission’s chance to dominate the biggest screen. CEO Rich Gelfond told Variety,“I would hope after Oppenheimer’s run, we can bring back Mission.”

David Vendrell

Born and raised a stone’s-throw away from the Everglades, David left the Florida swamp for the California desert. Over-caffeinated, he stares at his computer too long either writing the TFP newsletter or screenplays. He is repped by Anonymous Content.


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