'Star Trek' breaks Imax record as purists grumble

Wed May 13, 2009 3:05am BST

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* "Star Trek" posts record-breaking box office for IMAX

* Purists call smaller screen version of IMAX inauthentic

By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES, May 12 (Reuters) - Imax Corp (IMX.TO) said on Tuesday its "Star Trek" screenings grossed a record $8.5 million during the film's first weekend, even as some purists complained that the company's big screens were not big enough.

The hotly anticipated science fiction movie garnered $79.2 million at U.S. and Canadian box offices over the weekend, and 11 percent of that figure came from Imax screens.

Imax said that was significant because its screens accounted for less than 2 percent of the venues for "Star Trek." The old record of $6.3 million was set by "The Dark Knight" last summer, although that film played on 94 Imax screens, while "Star Trek" beamed in on 138.

The "Star Trek" Imax contribution shows that moviegoers are pleased with the company's theater experience, Chief Executive Richard Gelfond told Reuters.

"There's no indication at all that the word of mouth is anything but positive," he said.

But on Tuesday, the company also faced some criticism from a Hollywood actor who wrote in an expletive-laden blog that he felt cheated when he paid $5 extra to see "Star Trek" in Imax and saw the movie on a smaller-than-expected screen.

"These new 'Imax' theaters are really just nice digital screens with good sound, but they are not Imax, in that they don't have the huge 72-foot (22-metre) gigantic screen which people would expect," said Aziz Ansari, a co-star of the new NBC show "Parks and Recreation."

The actor's comments echoed earlier criticism from purists who say Imax should re-brand its smaller screens in multiplexes to differentiate them from larger Imax screens, found mostly in museums and science centers.

Sizes vary, but a typical Imax multiplex screen could be 28 by 58 feet (8.5 metres by 18 metres) , while a larger Imax screen could be 76 by 97 feet (23 metres by 29.5 metres).

Gelfond countered that Imax has no re-branding plans because "Imax is Imax."

"Does American Airlines brand a (Boeing) 767 (flight) differently than a 727? We wouldn't put our name on it unless it lived up to the 'Wow!' factor and to the Imax brand," he said.

The company has been moving its smaller version of Imax screens into multiplexes for more than five years, and it has 371 screens worldwide, with 250 of those in commercial venues as opposed to museums and science centers, the company said.

Imax screens in multiplexes are always the largest in that venue, and with digital remastering they offer higher picture quality and other enhanced features. "When you go to an Imax theater you get the most immersive film experience on the planet," Gelfond said.

"Star Trek" was released by Paramount Pictures, a unit of Viacom Inc VIAb.N, (Editing by Dean Goodman and Eric Walsh)

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