These days, with so many entertainment options available for viewers (including a bevy of home streaming services), movie theaters have to go the extra mile to draw in sizable crowds. One way they do this is through premium formats, which try to offer audiences with something that goes beyond what’s possible in a living room. There are 3D TVs available for purchase, but IMAX is a different story. To get that larger-than-life experience, people have to make a trek to the multiplex, and it’s common for several of the biggest Hollywood tentpoles to receive an IMAX 3D release when they premiere.
Star Wars, of course, is tailor-made for the silver screen, given its status as a spectacle-driven space fantasy franchise. Disney’s revival of the iconic property has allowed filmmakers to embrace the wonders of modern technology when telling stories in the galaxy far, far away, and J.J. Abrams used special IMAX cameras while filming The Force Awakens. So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that Rian Johnson followed suit and incorporated the format in his The Last Jedi, which will be released this December.
In a press release, IMAX/Lucasfilm announced Johnson shot “key sequences” for Episode VIII with high-resolution IMAX cameras that strive to deliver grand scope and superior image quality. Obviously, the studio did not reveal what in particular was captured in IMAX, but it’s safe to assume some this is a reference to some of the movie’s central action set pieces. The rumor mill has already provided details of a potential showdown between the grizzled (and more powerful) Luke Skywalker and the Knights of Ren, which would certainly be stunning to see in IMAX. Should The Last Jedi feature any aerial dogfights, that would also be a wonder to behold on the largest screen possible.
Johnson’s use of IMAX cameras is part of an extended agreement between IMAX and Disney, which also includes Indiana Jones 5, the young Han Solo spinoff, and various Marvel productions such as Avengers: Infinity War, Black Panther, and Captain Marvel. Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time, next month’s live-action Beauty and the Beast, and Disney animated sequels Toy Story 4, The Incredibles 2, and Wreck-it Ralph 2 are also key projects in the deal. Infinity War is a special case, as directors Joe and Anthony Russo plan to film the entire movie with IMAX cameras. Walt Disney Studios president Alan Bergman said this will help the Mouse House bring “exceptional theatrical experiences” to viewers over the next handful of years.
Disney has certainly been successful in that regard recently, as many of their tentpoles have gone on to break box office records and earn widespread critical acclaim. 2016 was quite a fruitful year for the studio, when they were responsible for the five highest-grossing films worldwide (four of which made over $1 billion). It’s safe to say this should be a lucrative partnership as Disney and their affiliates grow their slates. For many people, they’re the premier provider of entertainment, and it will be exciting to see their latest films unfold in all IMAX has to offer.