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Gladiator and Perfect Storm: First Hollywood Big Movies?


Written by: Ryan Kresser
Date: Dec 2000

The re-release of films like the Matrix, Gladiator, Perfect Storm and Vertical Limit for Big Movie screens has many in the industry and public scratching their heads.


Category: Columns

Many who have recently heard that Gladiator, The Matrix, Perfect Storm or Vertical Limit is coming to an IMAX® theater near them may have cheered and thought, "finally, Hollywood is waking up and putting huge, epic blockbusters on the giant screen."

Unfortunately, they would be mistaken.

While these Hollywood blockbusters ARE now being shown in some IMAX theaters, they are NOT being blown up to full IMAX size – they CAN’T be blown up to that size unless you want to watch a blur, because they weren’t shot on IMAX (or other 70mm) cameras. You may be able to see Gladiator or Perfect Storm projected bigger than usual on IMAX screens with some degree of clarity, but you’ll have to wait to see the first epic Hollywood blockbuster in true IMAX format.

It may be a few years. Currently, IMAX technology is still far too expensive and unwieldy to be used for huge, Hollywood-scale dramatic epics – and there aren’t a sufficient number of theaters to make Big Movies profitable enough so that producers could afford a $15 million dollar Hollywood action star, anyway. $100 million dollar action epics? Forget it. Even if the economics did make sense in terms of stars, costly film stock, rolls of film just three minutes long, loud cameras, and having to fill a much larger frame when faking epic battles and the like could easily turn a $100 million epic into $150 million or $200 million epic disaster.

Perhaps the best hope for those who cant wait to see films like Gladiator in true Big Movie format is digital technology. In a few years, digital cameras may be able to capture images with enough clarity to be projected onto the giant IMAX screens with perfect sharpness (I saw some tests recently, and they’re getting fairly close). Theoretically, directors will then be able to shoot films simultaneously for both Big Movie and normal 35mm screens, using the same camera (the digital images would simply be output to different sizes). Still, things need to be framed differently for the giant screen, and the action needs to be moved in different ways – which means that the first really good Big Movie epic won’t happen until a director focuses heart and soul on filling the giant screen like never before.

IMAX® is a registered trademark of IMAX Corporation.

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