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Before Christopher Nolan started to use IMAX cameras on his films, Hollywood was lukewarm when it came to their relationship with the large format giant. Up until now, Warner Brothers has been the only real studio to make an extended commitment to the specialty theater experience, while other studios have at one point or another had infrequently recurring agreements. That's all about to change, as Universal has officially signed on to bring fifteen of their upcoming releases, starting with Fast And Furious 7, to their gigantic screens. The timing couldn't be better for them, as Warner Brothers' current twenty picture agreement is drying up as of next year.
The Hollywood Reporter also noted that Legendary Pictures, coming off of an agreement with Warner Brothers themselves, is also a part of the deal, bringing some of their films into the fray as well. Among the titles slated for immediate IMAX release are Dracula Untold, The Seventh Son (which transferred over to Universal once Legendary came on board), and Jurassic World. Further on down the line, Everest, Crimson Peak, and Warcraft will all get their shots at large format glory as well, so start making your travel plans accordingly.
While it's exciting to see studios like Universal and Warner Brothers stoking the growing fires of large format presentation, the IMAX brand still has a long way to go before it's considered a viable enough brand to keep expanding in this fashion. Despite their "digital IMAX" expansion with theater chains like AMC, there are still not enough screens in play to make it as omnipresent of a viewing option as they'd like. Also, when someone like Christopher Nolan films a movie like Interstellar on IMAX film stock, it isn't presented properly on those digital screens, seeing as they're only twin digital 35mm projectors angled to fake the 70mm format IMAX is famous for. Forgetting the formatting or availability problems, there's still one major factor IMAX needs to keep in mind when making agreements like this: they need to choose movies that truly take advantage of the format.
For every movie like The Dark Knight, Speed Racer, or How To Train Your Dragon that IMAX gets it right with, there's still movies like Poseidon, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, or Divergent that they get it wrong with. Looking at the upcoming Universal slate, there's quite a bit of both columns on display. Jurassic World is a no brainer after last year's successful 20th anniversary re-release of Jurassic Park, and films like Everest and Warcraft are built in spectacles that would do well on the big, big screen. However, Dracula Untold is a dicey prospect, even just as a film itself; and The Seventh Son is so poisonous that Warner Brothers let their claim to it lapse so Universal had to release it.
If IMAX is going to continue to compete with the ever growing list of pretenders to the throne, it's going to have to not only be careful with what it releases, it's going to have to expand its brand carefully. Signing long term agreements with huge studios like Universal is a good step in the right direction, provided those studios can deliver films like Jurassic World or Fast And Furious 7 that deliver the goods.
We'll see how Universal and Legendary make use of their new agreement, starting with Dracula Untold, which drops on October 17th. Fast And Furious 7 is slated for April 10th, 2015 and Jurassic World is set for June 12th, 2015.