IMAX-Fueled 'Polar Express' Chugs Past $100M
by Brandon Gray
December 10, 2004
The Polar Express may have been a lump of coal out of the gate, but the Christmas season, word-of-mouth and IMAX have provided the fuel for it to become the big engine that could.
On its 30th day of release, the Warner Bros. release crossed the century mark at the box office with $100.2 million in the till. It's the 14th movie of star Tom Hanks' career to reach the milestone – more than any other actor – and the eighth for director Robert Zemeckis, who now has had five in a row since first teaming with Hanks on Forrest Gump in 1994.
Despite a $165 million price tag and power players Zemeckis and Hanks behind it, the computer-animated wonder became an underdog after its disappointing $23.3 million opening weekend at 3,650 venues in the wake of The Incredibles. But it has seen minimal drop-offs since, buoyed in part by its run in IMAX 3D.
The 61 IMAX theaters showing The Polar Express have contributed $14.4 million of the picture's $100.2 million total. They are the reason for its high-for-a-family-movie weekday numbers – this past week, IMAX ranged from 24-30% of each day's gross – propelling it ahead of former No. 1 National Treasure on Wednesday and Thursday. On each weekend, IMAX has consistently generated over $2 million.
At its current pace, The Polar Express should come to stop at over $150 million and may become a perennial not just on home video but on IMAX as well. That's not exactly a financial windfall, given the high cost of production and marketing, but it's a respectable feat for a movie experimenting in new technology and telling a fanciful children's story that on the surface lacks the "cool factor" of an Incredibles.
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REVIEW: 'The Polar Express' - Ticket to Ride