Did you face the same Catch-22 on your first IMAX production “Into the Deep?”
I didn’t face the same Catch-22; they came to me. If I’d gone to them, I wouldn’t have had a chance. One of the founders of IMAX came to me and had a contract to do an underwater 3-D film, and he was looking for somebody to do it. He had seen my television films and thought I offered a chance to do something different. I didn’t take him seriously for a considerable period of time, frankly, because the whole idea seemed crazy. So I really didn’t have to work very hard to get the contract; it just kind of fell in my lap.
I understand it was one of the best grossing films in the U.S. last Thanksgiving weekend?
It was the single highest grossing screen in the nation during Thanksgiving weekend, which probably meant in the world. That’s a big deal for me, and a big deal for IMAX. More importantly, it’s a big deal for the documentary community because it means that documentaries can make money in a theatrical format. That’s real exciting.
Because the mindset is that documentaries don’t make a lot of money compared to entertainment films?
The conventional wisdom is that nobody will come see them. They won’t make any money. And the theater will go empty. The reason SONY ended up showing “Into the Deep” in their new Broadway, New York theater is because the film they were making to show on opening day wasn’t finished on time. All of a sudden, they were without a film. The irony was, we went to SONY when we first made the film, and said, “Would you like to contribute toward the budget of this thing for a lease-option on it?” They just laughed at us and said,
“No. We’re not that kind of a theater. We’re doing entertainment films. We’re not interested in documentaries. We don’t want anything to do with your film.”
Then, a year and a half later, their film isn’t finished and they came to us, kind of sheepishly, “Let us look at it.” They looked at it and said, “Well, we have no choice. We have to show something on opening day.” So they put in my film and another film called “The Last Buffalo, 11 which was sort of an art/natural history film. “Into the Deep “just killed them. It’s been sold out almost ever since.