Animal in IMAX, Tanhaji in 3D: Will the new tricks work?

IMAX has gained too. Last year, its India revenues crossed $20 million (around  ₹166 crore) in 2023, more than the 2022 earnings of $18.8 million.
IMAX has gained too. Last year, its India revenues crossed $20 million (around 166 crore) in 2023, more than the 2022 earnings of $18.8 million.

Summary

  • Animal, Maidaan, Bade Miyan Chote Miyan release in IMAX, entering a field dominated by Hollywood. Even though these are converted to the special formats post-production, viewership for such premium experiences is growing.

NEW DELHI : For a long time, Hollywood ruled India's IMAX and 3D screens, offering immersive viewing of movies rich in action and special effects. Now, local fare is gracing these premium formats, bringing differentiation for the movie-makers and new experiences for the movie lover.

Local titles like Animal, Maidaan and Bade Miyan Chote Miyan have released in IMAX screens over the past few weeks, also benefiting the owners of these formats who only have a limited number of Hollywood films to screen every year.

Hollywood movies in IMAX and 3D use special cameras and projection techniques to create life-like visuals; IMAX theatres also feature much larger screens. However, Indian IMAX and 3D films are shot as regular movies and converted into these formats post-production, making it seem like a marketing gimmick since the visual quality is never the same.

Sometimes, movie makers release in 3D or IMAX even if the storyline does not require them, said Devang Sampat, managing director of multiplex chain Cinepolis India. "This marketing approach aims to enrich the overall theatrical experience for audiences and distinguish the film from standard releases. However, there are also instances where the storyline or the essence of the film justifies the utilization of these formats to intensify audience engagement and immersion," Sampat added.

According to Sampat, a key reason is the audience's growing appetite for immersive, larger-than-life cinematic experiences. However, the difference in visual quality between films shot in the specified format and those converted during post-production lies in the level of detail, depth, and authenticity of the visuals. “Films shot in the intended format often offer a more authentic and immersive experience due to the inherent capture of depth and detail during filming," Sampat said.

Meanwhile, the premium formats command higher ticket prices too. While a regular ticket for Maidaan could cost 300-400 depending on the show and property, an IMAX version would cost 600-1,000. In Mumbai, IMAX tickets for Oppenheimer were sold above 2,000 at premium theatres last year. IMAX has gained too. Last year, its India revenues crossed $20 million (around 166 crore) in 2023, more than the 2022 earnings of $18.8 million.

In the past year, Ponniyin Selvan: Part Two, Salaar Part-1 Ceasefire, Tiger-3, Bholaa and Jawan were adapted for IMAX, while Pathaan became the first Bollywood film to be entirely shot in IMAX, said Sanjeev Kumar Bijli, executive director of PVR INOX Ltd, India's largest multiplex chain. Additionally, 3D productions like Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior and Chaar Sahibzaade, a Punjabi animated historical drama, have captured audience interest.

"The visual superiority of a movie shot in 3D is evident compared to one that is converted to 3D, just as the difference between films shot in IMAX and those remastered for IMAX is discernible, albeit sometimes subtle even for the most dedicated movie buffs. While formats like 3D and IMAX add to the allure of a film and help sustain interest over time, they also contribute to the expansion of the movie-viewing market," said Bijli, whose company runs 24 IMAX theatres across the country.

Instead of viewing it as a marketing gimmick, releasing films in premium formats should be seen as a conscious effort to ensure larger-than-life experiences for viewers in cinemas, said Amit Sharma, managing director of Miraj Entertainment Ltd that operates multiplex theatres. On Thursday, Miraj tied up with IMAX Corp. to install three new IMAX screens at key locations, including one in Mumbai that will open this year, one in Jaipur, and a third location to be determined at a later date.

However, according to film trade experts, it doesn’t make financial sense in India to shoot in IMAX or convert too many existing films into these expensive formats since the country has less than 9,000 screens and large formats are available only in top metros. Producers and exhibitors have frequently fought over extra charges levied on glasses for 3D—a critical component of most IMAX and large-format screenings.

“It is obviously a marketing strategy to hike ticket rates. Plus, given that there aren’t that many Hollywood films to play in these formats on a regular basis, theatre owners don’t mind if Indian films are only converted, not originally shot in them. However, it doesn’t make sense for all genres, say emotional dramas to be viewed in IMAX, which is increasingly happening nowadays," said a trade analyst declining to be named.

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