Many of Hollywood's biggest franchises — like "The Hunger Games," "Transformers" and "Star Wars," to name a few — have followed the example set by Christopher Nolan in "The Dark Knight" and filmed sequences in IMAX.
So why hasn't Marvel Studios?
The home of Captain America and Iron Man has never shot with IMAX cameras, which would allow the film to fill the entire screen, despite just signing a formal partnership to present each of its movies in the large format through conversion. The partnership has, however, created other opportunities for both companies.
IMAX president Greg Foster explained over the phone that this agreement has completely changed the way the two companies work together.
"Instead of doing Marvel movies on a one-off basis, we're now a part of that universe if you will," he said. "It means that when we have meetings with Marvel, we're not simply looking for the next movie. There's a long-term point of view. This was the first movie that had that."
The first fruit of the agreement is a closer working relationship with James Gunn on "Guardians of the Galaxy." Though Gunn didn't film the latest Marvel movie in IMAX, he consulted with the company to optimize the space epic for later conversion. Foster, when he speaks about the projects that use the company's camera, emphasizes that IMAX's first priority is relationships with the filmmakers. This explains why the movies that do shoot in the format are directed by a handful of people, usually J.J. Abrams, Michael Bay and Christopher Nolan.
What Foster suggested was that consulting with IMAX on a movie that would eventually be converted was the first step in building that kind of relationship.
"This is the first movie that we've done with James Gunn, so to have someone who we really haven't known to embrace our format the way he has is terrific on lots of different levels," he said. "I like to think it means that we're doing something right, especially for the audience that this movie is tailored for, but it's a process. What we tend to do when we work with someone, the first movie is where we get our sea legs, both parties."
With a partnership down on paper and a working relationship with the filmmakers established, it seems like a Marvel Studios movie filmed in IMAX couldn't be that far away from becoming a reality, and as it turns out, that's exactly what the companies are discussing right now.
"It does feel that that's an opportunity. It's something we are discussing with Marvel," Foster said. "We would love a Marvel to shoot with IMAX cameras. It was difficult to do on a title-by-title basis, or less likely. Now that we have this long-term partnership, it's fantastic because we have the ability — which is what we're already doing with them — to discuss what those possibilities would be, in terms of increasing the IMAX DNA."
So while the geeky daydream of a Marvel movie filmed in IMAX still may be years away, a strong relationship between the film format company and filmmakers like James Gunn is bringing us closer than ever.