Despite its failure to catch on at the dominant box office, THE POLAR EXPRESS has clearly been a boon for IMAX, as the large-format companys maiden 3D feature grossed approximately $2,050,000 over the weekend, following last weekends record $2.1M gross. Playing on 60 screens in North America, the movie registered a noteworthy estimated per screen average of $34,000 for the period ended Nov. 21, 2004, and has now grossed a total of almost $6 million in only 11 days in IMAX theaters.
"THE POLAR EXPRESS: AN IMAX 3D EXPERIENCE is a huge hit," proclaimed IMAX's co-chairman and co-ceos, Richard L. Gelfond and Bradley J. Wechsler. "The phenomenal results from this weekend exceeded our expectations and convince us that this film will have strong legs. We felt that this weekend's performance would be key to forecasting the movie's long term potential, and with these results, record advanced ticket sales and positive word of mouth, we're confident it will continue to be a big success this holiday season and in years to come."
THE POLAR EXPRESS: AN IMAX 3D EXPERIENCE opened its international run this weekend with strong performances in both Mexico and Australia. The brand new Cinepolis Perisur IMAX Theatre in Mexico City sold out every show on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, including heavy advanced ticket sales - a rarity in Mexico. The film also sold out multiple shows during its opening weekend at The LG IMAX Theatre in Sydney, Australia. This weekend marked the first time a Hollywood release converted into IMAX's format had ever played in either of these countries.
Clearly, POLAR EXPRESS has added appeal as a 3D experience: A comment Ive heard is that the [greater] solidity of the characters gives them added realism simply because we have volume and occupied space, remarked Hugh Murray, IMAXs vp technical production.
Murray then described the process to VFXWORLD: The fact that it was all-CGI made it possible to make a 3D version by going back into the 3D data files and just modifying it. So the way the pipeline was set up was Sony created a separate [IMAX 3D] team of around 30 animators under in-house producer John Clinton. I worked with them at the very beginning of the process to get them through the learning curve in making good large-format stereothe rules of what you can and cannot do in terms of how close things can be to the camera and what the cameras separations have to be.
The way the pipeline worked was as the main production finalized each shotthey passed it to the IMAX 3D team. They went back into the data and replaced the existing camera with a stereo camera. The original camera became the mid-point of view between the left and right eyes that they are going to generate. There was a lot of dynamic cinematography in this film, and that involved the camera getting close to things and farther away. So even within shots there was a lot of designing the separation between the left and right eye cameras.
Johns group would render flat-shaded versions of the scenes with the stereo cameras and when they accumulated a bunch of those, I would approve the stereo at that stage. None of the textures or lighting or effects had been added at this point, so they did quite a number of enhancement to the effects to make them more stereoscopic.
What sold director Robert Zemeckis on IMAX 3D? The test they did of a closeup of the train pulling up in the foreground.
Founded in 1967, IMAX Corp. (www.imax.com) is one of the world's leading entertainment technology companies.