At $26.75 each, tickets for 70-millimeter screenings of “Dunkirk” at Universal City in Los Angeles are among the most expensive in the country. Splurge for popcorn and a soda and you’re in for more than $40.
Yet the moviegoing elite has been clamoring to see the World War II epic on 125 specially outfitted U.S. theaters designed to show the feature the way director Christopher Nolan wanted — on an extra big screen using conventional film projectors that render better pictures than today’s digital variety. No 3-D glasses, no vibrating chairs.
The turnout shows some fans are willing to pay up for movies that deliver the visual goods and the drama. For the opening weekend, sales at Imax Corp.’s 31 specially outfitted 70-millimeter theaters were more than double what the company’s regular screens brought in. Imax accounted for a quarter of domestic sales for “Dunkirk,” according to company executives who said on a call Wednesday they’re starting to de-emphasize once-popular 3-D movies.
“This is something you have got to experience in the theater,” Craig Dehmel, head of global distribution at Imax, said in an interview. “We will run ‘Dunkirk’ on Imax screens into August and will continue to play it throughout the month, as long as moviegoers continue to seek it out.”
The high price for “Dunkirk,” which averages $15 per ticket across all Imax locations, is a rare bit of good news for exhibitors, who’ve suffered falling attendance during a summer of lackluster movie releases. With a stagnant domestic box-office sales and collapsing DVD sales, studios are pushing to bring new movies into homes sooner, potentially cutting the three months of exclusivity theaters enjoy. Most of the theater stocks are down this year.
That’s despite big investments in bigger screens, plush seating, improved sound, and digital projectors that both lower costs and enable the new generation of 3-D superhero and…