Walt Disney Pictures will release its 2002 animation Treasure Planet simultaneously in 35mm venues and in Imax and other large-format cinemas, the first time a studio feature has been specifically formatted for the giant screen to receive a day-and-date release. Based on Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island", the digitally-produced space adventure opens in North America on Nov. 27.

Chuck Viane, President of Distribution for Buena Vista Pictures told Screendaily that the decision to release simultaneously was based on a variety of factors, including the current success of Beauty And The Beast, which has grossed $10.7m to date on 68 large-format screens (53 of them Imax brand) in North America. It is playing on a further 32 large-format screens internationally (precise box office numbers are unavailable). Fantasia 2000, released exclusively in Imax cinemas in 2000, earned $65m on 70 screens worldwide.

Viane said the digital production of Treasure Planet lends itself to the giant screen. Whereas the large-format Beauty And The Beast and the upcoming large-format release of The Lion King (set to open in North America on Jan. 1, 2003) had to be shot frame by frame with an Imax camera, Treasure Planet does not have to be adapted or enhanced. "It can easily be done from scratch into all negative [formats]. Competitively you have a huge advantage. You can offer the public options to see the film the way they choose."

Imax co-CEO Richard Gelfond told Screendaily he hopes the Treasure Planet model will be the first in a trend. "For several years we have envisioned Imax cinemas as a place for day-and-date release' There's been a model of 35mm release patterns, we think this will help the model evolve." He said Imax is in discussion with other studios for similar day-and-date releases, suggesting that large-format could provide a release window for event pictures like Pearl Harbor or the Lord Of The Rings films and that viewers will be willing to pay a premium for the experience. In North America, large-format ticket prices are generally $2-$3 higher than those of conventional cinemas. Gelfond said Imax expects to announce new projects over the next several months.

Directed by John Musker and Ron Clements, the team responsible for The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and Hercules, Treasure Planet features the vocal talents of Emma Thompson, David Hyde Pierce, Martin Short, Brian Murray and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Roy Conli served as producer.