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In May, Imax Entertainment president Megan Colligan received an invite to attend Kayne West’s Sunday Service in Calabasas. A month later, West and Imax were in business together, shooting a 31-minute experimental film capturing the performance of the pop-up, gospel-led rap group at visionary artist James Turrell’s remote Roden Crater, an expansive art installation in Arizona’s Painted Desert.
Jesus Is King — also the name of West’s new album — debuted over the Oct. 25-27 weekend to a promising $1.03 million in Imax theaters in the U.S. and several overseas markets. It’s playing exclusively in more than 300 Imax locations in the U.S.
“We created this film as one of my first Christian content releases in unison with our first Christian album. My life and everything I do is in service to Jesus Christ,” West said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter.
Initially, the plan was to live-stream the performance in Imax theaters. But West decided instead that he wanted to make a short film.
Jesus Is King is something of a departure for Imax, the preferred destination for Hollywood tentpoles. “We always talk about disruption. Disruption can also be inside a theater,” says Colligan.
Earlier this year, Colligan and Imax teamed with Paul Thomas Anderson to bring Anima to the big screen for a one-night special event. The 15-minute short showcased new music from Radiohead‘s Thom Yorke.
Directed by Nick Knight, Jesus Is King features 13 gospel songs arranged by West and performed by his Sunday Service choir, as well as new music from his new album of the same name.
The concert pic also provides a rare glimpse of the Roden Crater, an immense circular structure with a round skylight in the center of the roof. West donated $10 million to help Turrell complete the project, which is housed in an extinct volcano. The installation is not yet open to the public.
“For many years, movie-makers have created global blockbusters for the Imax platform. This project shows how the Imax platform can benefit musicians as well, activating fans around the world with unique, social and immersive in-theater experiences,” says Elizabeth Frank, AMC Theatres’ chief content officer and president of worldwide programming.
Imax financed Jesus Is King and provided the cameras.
“The concept is about surprising and delighting the audiences with something they weren’t expecting,” says Colligan. “We only launched the trailer for Jesus Is King a week before it opened. It was all very spontaneous.”
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