Interstellar is an epic film, in every sense. In fact, it's more of an event than a movie. That's why IMAX (NYSE:IMAX) is the perfect launching platform for Christopher Nolan's extravagant work, and why Interstellar might be the first example of a whole new breed of movies.
IMAX is taking this title very seriously. Here's a short list of the honors IMAX has bestowed on Interstellar, even before the movie's wide release:
- The movie got an early premiere at the IMAX screen at Hollywood's famed TCL Chinese Theatre, with a cavalcade of stars in attendance.
- IMAX screens also received the movie two days before regular theaters, debuting on Wednesday. The no-holds-barred release for every type of screen is scheduled for Friday.
This will be the widest IMAX release in the company's history, hitting more than 760 megascreens globally. To put this into perspective, there are currently 880 IMAX theaters worldwide. Interstellar will hit 86% of them, and that includes IMAX installations at science museums and art houses. The previous record holder, Michael Bay's Transformers: Age of Extinction, only reached 619 IMAX screens, or 74% of the available IMAX theaters at the time.
I'm not just speculating -- IMAX officially wanted to break records here. "We've been gearing up for the IMAX release of Christopher Nolan's Interstellar for several months now, and we couldn't be more excited to break down the doors in record-setting fashion," said IMAX Entertainment CEO Greg Foster in a press release.
Also, IMAX happily shipped out actual film reels to properly equipped theaters, catering to maximum-quality purists. Nolan himself prefers film stock over digital production, after all.
Adding a finishing touch, the Interstellar press screening was unique. Critics only... leaving the curious throngs of regular viewers to wait for the proper premiere. We writers weren't even allowed to bring guests, which is a first for me. A screening manager explained that the studio wanted to provide the purest possible experience for critics, so we wouldn't get pulled out of the immersive presentation by silly distractions. Again, that's usually not a consideration.
What's the big deal?
Okay, so Interstellar is a big deal from IMAX's perspective. But why the big push for this title? What sets Nolan's film apart from other big-ticket blockbusters with large IMAX showings, like the Transformers series?
This movie is actually different. I believe that Christopher Nolan is trying to set the stage for a new era in big-budget movie events. Seeing that Nolan's vision is a perfect match for its own larger-than-life philosophy, IMAX must be thrilled to be on board.
Let me explain. Interstellar may be distributed by two of Hollywood's largest studio names, but the real money goes right back to the producer. In this case, the two majors share the profits with a trio of indie studios -- led by Nolan's own Syncopy Films banner.
Christopher Nolan is a producer with a serious financial stake in this film, besides directing and co-writing the script. In other words, Interstellar is about as pure an artistic statement as you'll ever get from this modern-day auteur.
And it's different. Interstellar reaches for the epic in a way that today's action features really don't. I don't want to give away too much of the story, so let's just say that Nolan injects grandeur and scale into the visuals, the sound design, and several levels of the story itself. It's a majestic, high-stakes tale of planetary fates, human history, family ties, and more.
Most directors would settle for a couple of these shots at an epic experience. Michael Bay typically throws a ton of special effects at a bare-bones storyline and calls it a day. James Cameron explored the human experience in Titanic, and alien worlds in Avatar -- but never both at the same time.
Epic blockbusters, all. None come close to what Nolan is attempting in Interstellar.
Can Nolan change Hollywood from within?
Nolan's ambition is nothing less than setting a new standard for what a blockbuster should be. Sure, it's been done before, notably in Avatar 's approach to 3D filmmaking that introduced a slate of refreshed technology, and spawned a thousand imitators. But Nolan's attempt is more about storytelling than about raw technology. And that makes it relevant to more than just the narrow field of high-octane action movies. Christopher Nolan wants to make every movie better.
Look, Interstellar is not perfect. When the surprisingly solid science stretches too far, Nolan's spiritual vision takes over, and can become bothersome at times. I didn't love the ending.
But these are minor nitpicks. I can't remember the last time I enjoyed an original movie this much. If Interstellar becomes a serious hit, Nolan will have struck a blow for classic storytelling and started to tear down the cookie-cutter mentality we see far too often today.
I'm OK with that, and chances are that Nolan will succeed. His name alone guarantees that Interstellar will draw tremendous crowds, possibly matching the billion-dollar success of the Dark Knight Batman titles.
And then it's off to the races. Filmmakers and studios will take one glance at Nolan's proof of concept, decide that good stories can make a boatload of money, and start copying that audience-friendly idea.
It's a throwback to simpler times, when great stories trumped flashy special effects. And not a moment too soon.
This could be the tide-turning event that helps Hollywood studios overcome falling attendance figures. During the last 10 years, ticket prices have soared 13% higher, but total box office sales have still failed to keep up with inflation.
Here's hoping that Nolan's ambitious film starts making a difference.