IMAX Entertainment CEO Greg Foster on How ‘Game of Thrones’ Influenced ‘Marvel’s Inhumans’

     August 1, 2017

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When Marvel’s Inhumans was filming earlier this year in Hawaii, I was able to visit the set with a few other reporters, where we watched filming and talked to most of the cast and filmmakers. I learned a lot about the upcoming show and over the next month, I’ll be posting a lot of cool content revealing how the show came together and what fans can look forward to.

If you’re not familiar with the series, based on the Marvel comic, it’s doing something incredibly cool and unusual. The first two episodes were filmed using IMAX cameras and will premiere globally in IMAX theatres for a two-week period, beginning September 1, 2017, and then ABC will air the entire eight-episode series beginning September 29th. It’s an incredibly ambitious idea, but one I can’t wait to see.

While on set, I got to participate in a group interview with IMAX Entertainment CEO Greg Foster. During the interview, Foster talked about how and why they decided to invest in this production, how they are going to measure the success of the show, the way Game of Thrones playing in IMAX influenced Inhumans, the complicated deal with Marvel and ABC, and so much more.

Finally, before getting to the interview, check out the first teaser trailer for the series followed by the official synopsis:

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“Marvel’s Inhumans” explores the never-before-told epic adventure of the royal family including Black Bolt, the enigmatic, commanding King of the Inhumans, with a voice so powerful that the slightest whisper can destroy a city. After the Royal Family of Inhumans is splintered by a military coup, they barely escape to Hawaii where they are greeted with surprising interactions with the lush world and humanity around them. Now they must find a way to reunite with each other and return to their home before their way of life is destroyed forever.

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“Marvel’s Inhumans” stars Anson Mount as Black Bolt, Iwan Rheon as Maximus, Serinda Swan as Medusa, Eme Ikwuakor as Gorgon, Isabelle Cornish as Crystal, Ken Leung as Karnak, Ellen Woglom as an undisclosed character, Sonya Balmores as Auran and Mike Moh as Triton.

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The series is executive produced by Scott Buck, along with Marvel’s Jeph Loeb and Jim Chory with Buck serving as showrunner. Roel Reiné directed the first two episodes. This series is a Marvel and IMAX project and is co-produced by Marvel Television and ABC Studios.

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Question: Can we sort of talk about the genesis of this project, and because this is your first time, I believe investing as a company, in production like this?

inhumans-marvel-abc-imax-posterGREG FOSTER: So, it is, and the genesis of it is multi-layered, so I’m just gonna ramble for a bit. First of all, our goal is to provid- IMAX’s goal is to provide 52 weeks of compelling content, and the reality is that big tent pole, blockbuster movies, which is how we now make our living, do not come out 52 weeks of the year. I’m going to use North American dates, my apologies, but right around Labor Day, which is sort of end of August, early September, studios don’t release big movies. I still can’t quite figure out why, but they don’t. They didn’t use to release big movies in January, but now they do, because American Sniper did so well. So, all of a sudden, that religion is over, and now they will release big movies then, but they don’t release them in September. They don’t in early September. They don’t release them post Thanksgiving, pre Star Wars, which means the first two weeks of December. They don’t release them Super Bowl Sunday week. They don’t release them at the end of April. It’s just how it works, but an exhibitor who’s in the IMAX business, doesn’t care. So, Pathé or Toho, or AMC, or Regal, they don’t really care that studios don’t release big time, full blockbuster movies during eight to ten weeks a year. What they care is that they have their biggest grossing screens, which are IMAX screens, and the most trafficked multiplexes, don’t have new product.

Our business last year, did about a billion dollars, because our network has grown. We’re in 74 countries, and because we’re such an important part of what goes on with movies. So, for instance this weekend, with Beauty and the Beast, which is a family movie, and not something that traditionally IMAX would do, we did 21 million dollars at the box office. So, they have to have product. So, we thought, well television is the lines between television and movies, those lines are blurring. In fact, I would pause it that they’ve blurred, and we have an incredible relationship with Marvel, and have for a long time. We have an amazing relationship with Disney. Maybe there’s something to that. So, we started talking and this came about, and it’s something, as you just saw, is being designed and customized to take advantage of the IMAX footprint, the IMAX scope. It’s a television show. It’s not a movie, but it’s a television show with incredibly high production value, that features a lot of things futuristically, and in space, which lends itself to IMAX, and it’s got this window, and the window happens to conspicuously be when we don’t have big studio movies. That’s the ultimate genesis of it. It’s been an eye opener on a lot of different levels.

There’s another part of it, that I think is important to talk about, which is, we have been judged, for lack of a better expression, as a capital markets company, as a publicly traded company, actually two of them, as an exhibitor, and mostly as a North American exhibitor. So, the way our business is evaluated, is under the auspice of being a North American exhibitor, but we’re in 74 countries. We have 1,200 screens. We have another 500 that are in back log, meaning they’ve been contracted, but they haven’t opened yet, and we feel that we’re a multifaceted media and technology company.

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Image via ABC

So, being now in the television business for the first time, and doing so with something that has such scope, and is with a connection, the Marvel IMAX Disney connection, ABC is obviously a Disney company, Marvel is a Disney company. We’ve had an outstanding relationship with everything Disney, and everything Marvel for quite some time, and to do so in a way that again, fills in this conspicuous absence of big studio product. September, for the first couple weeks, just made it too good to pass up. So, we didn’t.

I have a question with regards to how you measure the success of this project. How would you measure the success of it?

FOSTER: So, ultimately the success of the property is, if the television show works. Our goal is, see it first in IMAX, and have the audience that IMAX has spent many years building, which is the fanboy audience, have that audience-

Fangirl.

FOSTER: Or fangirl. It’s fans, but no offense, but it’s usually … We are a little bit more fanboys, than fangirls, but maybe with something like Beauty and the Beast, we’re seeing that that’s shifting a little bit, which we’re excited about … Really excited about. The goal is for the television show, when it premieres in the Fall, on ABC, and all of the various broadcast platforms in your countries, to be able to bring incremental traffic to watching it on television, that might not have come, were it not for the fact that it was affiliated with IMAX. That’s how we ultimately are gonna be judging. That’s how we’ll judge ourselves.

We do expect the box office in that two week window, starting September 1st, to be better than anything else that we would have released September 1st. Because if you go back and look at what our schedule has been on September 1st over the last three or four years, or more or less September 1st, it was a re-release of Indiana Jones. It was a re-release of The Wizard of Oz. It was when we had our first DMR title, it was in September and it was the re-release seven years after it came out originally of Apollo 13. These movies are being re-released in IMAX, because there’s really, again, nothing there for the studio.

Television