Last week I saw Roving Mars, the IMAX movie about Spirit and Opportunity — with actual giant images from Mars. And it reminded me: It is really hard to make a bad IMAX movie. The experience is just so overwhelming that even a so-so documentary becomes visceral — and a good one becomes enthralling.
But of course the big thing now is that a lot of mainstream movies are making the leap to IMAX; this is part of the company’s new strategy, which is less Roving Mars and more Return of the King. Indeed, I saw Return of the King on IMAX. It was rad. And profits seem to be up.
Now, the next big thing for the format might be James Cameron’s return to narrative film. Inspired by the canvas (he’s done a bunch of underwater documentaries in IMAX) and spurred on by the game-changing special effects in Peter Jackson’s movies, he is trying to do a live-action, CGI-infused 3D IMAX (!) movie based on the Battle Angel manga. I predict that, if made, it will be totally awesome.
It’s an interesting dynamic: As our millions of little living room theaters get better and better, the only public venues that can compete are the ones that completely blow the doors off the moviegoing experience. Forget stadium-style seating; you need a stadium-sized screen.
I think this thesis is generalizable, too: In the new media galaxy, it’s good to be on the low end (Rocketboom on my TiVo) or the high end (Return of the King in IMAX). But the middle (studio movies, network sitcoms) is the prehistoric desert landscape where you get killed.