Marvel TV series heads to Imax first

LOS ANGELES • One of Marvel Entertainment's most sprawling superhero mythologies, the Inhumans, is headed to the small screen in a major way.

But the Inhuman characters of Black Bolt, Crystal and Lockjaw, the teleporting dog, will first appear on the biggest screen.

Imax Corp, Marvel and the ABC broadcast network announced a partnership on Monday to introduce - and finance - a lavish new television series that will focus on the Inhuman royal family. Under the agreement, a version that combines the initial two episodes of Marvel's The Inhumans, shot entirely with Imax cameras, will play exclusively for two weeks in September next year on Imax screens worldwide.

Shortly thereafter, the episodes - edited to include additional scenes - will run on ABC, with new instalments unspooling in typical prime-time fashion. (The look of the series on television will be enhanced due to Imax technology.)

The series, billed as a family action-adventure with signature Marvel humour, will be set in the present day, with some action seeming to take place on the moon.

The deal is significant for several reasons. As their live audiences have dwindled and competition has increased, broadcast networks have struggled to create sizzle around new shows. ABC, which urgently needs new hits, is betting that Imax, with its strength among younger consumers known as fanboys, will help make the Inhumans a must-see event.

"In the incredibly crowded marketplace of television, we are very excited about this because it's a unique and innovative and bold way to debut our best new content," said Mr Ben Sherwood, president of Disney-ABC Television Group.

The deal also indicates that Disney remains focused on telling Marvel stories on ABC after an unexceptional start to that effort. Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has brought more male viewers to ABC, but it has been only a modest ratings performer. Another effort, Agent Carter, was a misfire.

ABC wants what Marvel Television and ABC Studios have supplied to Netflix - buzz-creating, widely watched series such as Luke Cage and Daredevil. A co-financing arrangement with Imax will allow ABC and Marvel to spend more to make the Inhumans, which will include cinema-quality visual effects. (One criticism of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been that certain action sequences are less than dazzling.)

Imax has never before served as a financing participant in a TV series, according to Mr Richard L. Gelfond, the company's chief executive.

It has dabbled in the past in showing television content on its supersize screens. Last year, for instance, it played a couple of Season 4 episodes of Game Of Thrones. But a series has never before made its debut through Imax, which has more than 1,000 locations worldwide.

"We see it as a way to extend the Imax brand and diversify our revenue," Mr Gelfond said.

Marvel, which has been on a box-office tear, initially expected to turn the Inhumans into a string of movies, even announcing its plans publicly in 2014.

But the studio ultimately decided the property would be a better fit for television, in part because there were already a lot of different Marvel movie franchises continuing.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 16, 2016, with the headline 'Marvel TV series heads to Imax first'. Subscribe