'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' Sequel to Play in 15 or Fewer Imax Theaters in U.S.

Courtesy Pegasus Pictures
'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny'

Theater owners in the U.S. balked at the bold plan to debut the movie simultaneously on Netflix and in Imax; China is a different story, where the sequel opened to a strong $21.3 million on the big screen.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny will play in only 10 to 15 Imax theaters in North America when it debuts Feb. 26, a year after Netflix and Imax left cinema operators furious when partnering on the release of the long-awaited follow-up to Ang Lee's 2000 martial-arts blockbuster.

At the time, most theater owners who operate Imax screens said they would not carry the film since it is debuting simultaneously on Netflix and on the big screen. They haven't softened, resulting in a very limited Imax footprint.

Nor did it help matters when Sword of Destiny was pushed from Aug. 28, 2015 — a relatively quiet corridor for Imax after the summer crush of tentpoles — to February, when Imax is committed to playing other titles, including Deadpool.

The Weinstein Co. produced the film with a number of partners, including the China Film Group and Netflix.

There are roughly 400 Imax theaters in the U.S.; Imax itself owns only four or five, while the rest are joint ventures. It's not clear how many screens Netflix and Imax originally had intended to play Sword of Destiny on; Netflix insiders say it was always going to be a limited number. However, other sources say it was originally intended to be far more than just 10 to 15 locations.

Over the weekend, Sword of Destiny debuted at the box office in China to a pleasing $21.3 million, coming in No. 2 behind Chinese sensation The Mermaid. However, as Netflix isn't available in China, Imax didn't face the same issues in the country that it does in the U.S., and is carrying the movie on hundreds of screens in the Middle Kingdom. Sword of Destiny is playing in regular 3D theaters as well.

Produced by TWC, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2 was directed by Yuen Wo-Ping, also a martial-arts master. Michelle Yeoh reprises her role as Yu Shu-Lien, while Donnie Yen also stars.

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