“Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” will open early in IMAX

HollywoodNews.com: In the category of ‘here’s an interesting idea’, Paramount and director Brad Bird announced today that Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol (see trailer) will be opening five days early in select IMAX theaters. So while the film’s wide release will stay occur on Wednesday, December 21st, the film will have its IMAX debut on Friday December 16th, 2011. This is more-or-less a first of its kind. Paramount did hold sneak previews the day before the wide release of Super 8 which occurred in most of its IMAX locations, but this selective sneak opening basically gives the fourth Mission: Impossible film a pre-release opening weekend of sorts. Point being, it looks like M:I4 will be going head-to-head against Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (see trailer) after all, as December 16th is the wide-release opening day for the Robert Downey Jr/Jude Law sequel.

Brad Bird, in his live-action debut, has shot twenty-five minutes of the film in IMAX film, and he claims the sneak-opening “is to bring back a ‘level of showmanship'”. IE – Bird and company are trying to bring back the concept of seeing a true ‘first run movie’ in a first-rate theater. I distinctly remember going to see Dreamgirls on opening night of its limited release at the Arclight Hollywood back in December of 2006. It was $25 a ticket, with a booklet/program and other token goodies which created an aura of actually attending opening night of a Broadway show. As I put it at the time, it was a four-star presentation of a three-star movie. Anyway, I spent much ‘ink’ in 2008 and 2009 discussing what I felt were going to be the coming IMAX wars, when studios realized the appeal and value of IMAX theaters and started opening all of their big films in the large-screen format. However, Avatar’s massive 3D success changed the subject for two years. But in the end, the key to the future of theatrical exhibition, in my opinion, was always IMAX.

3D is slowly becoming commonplace on the newer HDTV sets, so it will soon no longer require a trip to the theater. But the so-called ‘IMAX Experience’, seeing a new movie on a 100-foot screen with wall-to-wall speakers, is arguably the last theatrical experience that cannot, for the near future, be replicated in a home theater set-up. This move also represents a token pull-away from the obsession over opening weekend. Even if it fills up nearly every single IMAX seat the 200-300 IMAX auditoriums available, it would open around $30-40 million, which is still likely less than what Sherlock Holmes 2 (or Alvin and the Chipmunks 3) will open with that weekend. Or, if you want to be a pessimist, you can speculate that the move is purely about building word of mouth in advance of its wide release, to perhaps offset some of the damage that has been done to Tom Cruise’s drawing power since 2006. Either way, this move has the potential to be a game changer for mega-budget movies that are also debuting in IMAX.

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