'Dark Knight' heeds Imax signal

First major feature to have scenes shot in the format

Director Christopher Nolan has made an inventive decision to film four sequences of "The Dark Knight" with Imax cameras. The next installment of Warner Bros. Pictures' Batman franchise, which again will star Christian Bale as Batman/Bruce Wayne, is scheduled for a July 18, 2008, day-and-date theatrical release with Imax theaters.

Although it is not unusual for 35mm-lensed features to be remastered to screen in Imax theaters, "Dark Knight" is the first major feature to be even partially shot using Imax cameras. These sequences will be combined with the rest of the film -- lensed in 35mm -- to produce the final product.

What the use of Imax technology in the production means for audiences in Imax theaters is that when the select scenes are shown, the aspect ratio will morph to the larger size, expanding the image to fill the entire screen. In traditional theaters, the goal is that the Imax-lensed sequences "would jump off screens ... and give patrons an experience they haven't seen in 35mm presentations," said Dan Fellman, Warner Bros. president of domestic distribution.

Following many months of testing, the first of the Imax-lensed scenes, including a prologue that introduces the Joker (Heath Ledger), was shot in Chicago last month, several weeks in advance of the actual start of principal photography. Additional scenes will be filmed with Imax cameras during the course of production.

Nolan said, "In continuing the story of such a great icon, I'm thrilled to be able to expand the scope of the film, not just in terms of its story, but in giving Batman and the Joker the largest possible canvas on which to face off. No existing technology compares with the Imax format in terms of its ability to throw the audience into the action, and we're very proud and excited to use this technology in a way that no one has before."

"Warner Bros. has always been committed to advancing the art of filmmaking," said Jeff Robinov, president of production at Warner Bros. Pictures. "The use of Imax cameras to film select scenes in an action feature is a great step forward in big-screen entertainment, especially in the talented hands of Christopher Nolan."

Greg Foster, chairman and president of Imax Filmed Entertainment, added that the application "will allow our crystal-clear images, 14,000 watts of digital surround sound, and screens up to eight stories tall to give Batman fans the most immersive cinematic experience in the world." He praised Nolan's vision, and the Warners/Imax relationship; he estimates that Warners has released roughly 20 Imax films to date.

Warners' "300" set an attendance record at Imax theaters in its opening weekend in March. Next month, the studio will release "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" in Imax, with the final 20 minutes of the film screening in stereoscopic 3-D.

Fellman expects at least three additional Imax releases from Warners to debut between the release of "Order of the Phoenix" and "Dark Knight." This would include a sequel -- currently in production -- to "Deep Sea 3-D."

"Dark Knight" will be presented by Warner Bros. Pictures in association with Legendary Pictures. The film will be distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures.