Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol opens in select IMAX (NYSE: IMAX)theaters tonight, and it might be the biggest night in IMAX's history. The film is opening six days early exclusively at IMAX theaters, and the company is expecting a big showing from die-hard enthusiasts.

If theaters are sold out this weekend, it could prove that IMAX can command a massive premium and get a chance at more pre-releases. The potential windfall of early releases is enormous for IMAX because -- as we've found out with some weak showings this year -- the larger screens lend better to a specific type of action film to capture moviegoers' attention. An added weekend on the front of blockbusters would mean more packed theaters and more revenue for IMAX.

The Dark Knight Rises, which was partially filmed with IMAX cameras, will also be showing an extended preview before Mission: Impossible and could begin building buzz for the film. It's also possible we will be previewing the next pre-release on IMAX.

The downside risk
On the other hand, if ticket sales aren't brisk this weekend, there will be little incentive for studios to release films early on IMAX. With Sony (NYSE: SNE), Disney (NYSE: DIS), and Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) all releasing movies next year, they'll have an eye on the success of this weekend.

RealD (NYSE: RLD) is already feeling the pinch after studios found out not every movie is great in 3-D. IMAX is hoping to prove that any action film, 2-D or 3-D, is great in IMAX.

I've argued in the past that the market doesn't appreciate IMAX's potential, and now is the time for the company to put up or shut up. If IMAX can pull off a big weekend, the stock may become a hot commodity again.

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