'Dark Knight' new Imax king

Batman overtakes 'Polar Express' as top first-run release

The Imax-format release of Warner Bros.' "The Dark Knight" has blown past "The Polar Express" as the giant-screen exhibitor's top first-run release.

Imax also touted the Batman sequel's passing an average tally of $400,000 per screen on its 139 worldwide screens.

"The Dark Knight has shown the power of the Imax experience when partnered with a filmmaker and a studio that get it," Imax Filmed Entertainment chief Greg Foster said.

Directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Christian Bale, "Dark Knight" has rung up more than $925 million worldwide including $55 million in Imax grosses. That compares to the $45 million fetched by Imax 3-D version of Warners/Imax's seasonal favorite "The Polar Express," which was distributed both in conventional and Imax 3-D formats in 2004.

That first worldwide theatrical run for "Polar" capped off at about $285 million, but the Tom Hanks starrer has been re-released in Imax 3-D every holiday season. Helmed by Robert Zemeckis, "Polar" will unspool in about two dozen Imax 3-D venues over Thanksgiving, with its four-year cume in Imax 3-D approaching $70 million.

"Dark Knight" was released in July simultaneously in conventional theaters and Imax 2-D venues worldwide and continues to play on 101 Imax screens in the U.S. and Canada, as well as in 38 international venues. Foster said he would welcome any Imax re-release of the Batman blockbuster in future years, should Warners see merit in such a plan.

"That sounds like a really great idea," the Imax exec said. "Ultimately, it's a decision that Warner Bros. has to make. We'd certainly support that."

Warners distribution president Dan Fellman said there was "a real possibility" of such a re-release. Imax's imminent conversion of many of its venues to digital distribution would make cost considerations of such a move more negligible, though Fellman stressed nothing regarding an eventual "Dark Knight" re-release has been decided.