IMAX Going Digital
IMAX is getting ready to give up its 70mm post-card-sized-film projectors for digital. This transition should help boost profits for the iconic maker of glorious cinematic images. They just announced the first three digital installs in conjunction with AMC in the Washington/Baltimore area. Three more coming in August for Philly. Lucky folks on the east coast, right? Time for a road trip!
In a Reuters report courtesy of the Hollywood Reporter, IMAX plans on a total of 50 digital systems by the end of 2008. Eventually, all 296 IMAX theaters will be converted to digital. Their hope is that by switching to digital, more major studio films will be released in the IMAX theaters, following their successes with Harry Potter and Batman.
"In 2006, we averaged about 35 new theater signings a year. In the last seven months, we signed 173 new theaters," IMAX co-chairman and co-CEO Rich Gelfond says. "That's because of the launch of the digital product."
While IMAX made its name with films made specifically for the format, it's shifting gears as it goes digital, with the November 7th IMAX release of Madagascar 2 in 35 of its theaters.
According to the report, IMAX said that it has been talking to six studios about film projects for 2009. During this transition period, IMAX will release both film and digital. A challenge for the IMAX business model always has been studio distribution costs. A 70mm IMAX print can go from $22,000 per print for a 2-D film to $45,000 per print for a 3-D title. According to Gelfond, with digital projection, studios would - at least initially - deliver the content as files on a hard drive at a low cost of about $800 per digital IMAX "print."
While IMAX has been working with Texas Instrument's DLP on its digital systems, no word on the specs for the new theaters.
Knowing how high the bar was on their film product, I can't wait to see what happens as IMAX goes digital.-Leslie Shapiro
IMAX camera photo courtesy of Atlant