It's No Longer Just a "Fanboy" World for Imax: Exhibitor Taking More Risks

Courtesy of Universal

Expect more alternative programming like 'Fifty Shades of Grey' and 'American Sniper' during shoulder periods, says the giant-screen exhibitor.

Imax isn't kicking its core fanboy audience to the curb. But the giant-screen exhibitor on Thursday signaled it will continue offering more varied programming like American Sniper, HBO's Game of Thrones episodes and Fifty Shades of Grey.

Top Imax film programmer Greg Foster told financial analysts during a morning call that tentpole movies by Christopher Nolan, like the space epic Interstellar that did over $100 million in box office on his screens, and the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens will continue to target the Marvel action-adventure crowd.

"What we can't do is fundamentalism, say: 'This is the movie we only play, we only play fanboy movies, and that's that,' " added Imax Entertainment CEO Foster. That means Imax will take more risks with quick switches of Hollywood titles and smaller, limited runs when the major studios aren't releasing as many tentpole titles.

"We have to show flexibility, especially in the shoulder periods, and that's what we'll continue to do," said Foster. Imax recently supersized the Bradley Cooper starrer American Sniper for a Jan. 16 release on its domestic screens, and it did the same with Fifty Shades of Grey on 75 screens.

And Imax opened a TV-to-cinema pipeline by giving the final two episodes of HBO's Game of Thrones' fourth season and a season-five trailer the big-screen treatment. The giant-screen exhibitor is still touting to the major studios the benefits of early word-of-mouth from its fanboy audience.

Imax CEO Richard Gelfond told analysts after the release of his company's full-year results that a 17-minute preview of Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy on his screens helped build buzz for the eventual Disney release. But Foster added that the Game of Thrones run on Imax screens, while profitable, also generated "chatter" about more alternative fare to come from the giant-screen exhibitor.

"We are looking for new and innovative ways to create 52 weeks of compelling programming for our theaters. That's what our goal is," he said.