ABC hasn’t announced its full fall premiere schedule yet, but it has locked down one date: Sept. 29 will mark the TV debut of the network’s new Marvel series “Inhumans.”
The on-air premiere will come a few weeks after a short theatrical run in Imax theaters. The two-week engagement starts Sept. 1 and will show the first two episodes of “Inhumans” on the really big screen; ABC will air all episodes, including the two released theatrically, during the show’s network run.
The network announced its plan to do a theatrical release of “Inhumans” shortly after giving it a straight-to-series order, saying at the time it will be a win-win for Imax and ABC, giving the show a unique promotional push amid the crush of fall premieres. Clearly ABC and Marvel (and Imax, which reportedly came to Marvel with the idea) see the upside — and with Imax reportedly kicking in production costs on the first two episodes, the deal seems to make some business sense.
It also seems like ABC may be robbing Peter to pay Paul. Yes, the Imax release is a novel promotional strategy, and it will make some money — though no one should expect blockbuster-level numbers. “Inhumans” will debut on about 1,000 Imax screens — roughly a quarter of the screens for a typical wide-release movie does — in 74 countries, in a typically down time of year for moviegoing.
But if some Marvel fans pay up for the Imax showing, will they come back to watch at home on Sept. 29 and in subsequent weeks? Conversely, how many people will want to pay $20 or so for an Imax ticket to something they can watch for free a few weeks later?
TV executives are fond of saying that initial ratings don’t tell the whole story of a show’s audience. That may end up being more true for “Inhumans” than most, given its unorthodox release plan. It’s certainly going to be interesting to see how it plays out in the fall.