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''Polar Express'' gains steam on IMAX screens

”Polar Express” gains steam on IMAX screens — The 3-D version of the animated Christmas film gains popularity with audiences

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Apparently, size still matters in Hollywood — even for G-rated flicks. While Warner Bros.’ megabudgeted CG holiday tale The Polar Express has recovered nicely from its disappointing $23 million opening in November, the studio has another big reason to remain confident: IMAX. The large-format movie company also released a 3-D version of Express on just 62 screens — and raked in a remarkable $30 million gross, roughly 20 percent of the film’s $155 domestic total thus far. Makes Warner’s $10 million investment to convert the film to IMAX 3-D look like a pretty good deal.

”We were doing very well with parents and children,” notes Warner’s distribution head, Dan Fellman. ”But the IMAX [association] made this film a little hipper, attracting older teens and young adults… generating good word-of-mouth and repeat business.” Add in the format’s steeper ticket price (upwards of $15) to boost the bottom line, and it’s no surprise that Warner will try to duplicate Polar‘s success with an IMAX run of Johnny Depp’s family-friendly Charlie and the Chocolate Factory this July. Meanwhile, Fox is on the IMAX deck with the CG-driven Robots in March, and according to IMAX co-CEO Richard Gelfond, several other studios are vying for the big, big screens’ early-summer and holiday-season slots. As for Polar Express, both companies would like to see Tom Hanks pull in to IMAX theaters again, come November. And the one after that. Says Gelfond, ”There’s no reason why we shouldn’t reissue this every Christmas season.” Ah, and wouldn’t that be a wonderful life?