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IMAX Steps Up Its Digital Projection Schedule

Posted on Wednesday, October 17th, 2007 3:39 PM by Scott Jentsch

IMAX Corporation has announced that it will be launching its digital projection system earlier than originally planned.

From a press release issued today (which appears below):

Under the current roll-out schedule, the Company anticipates that three digital IMAX prototypes will be installed during the second quarter of 2008. Shortly thereafter, IMAX expects to install three additional prototypes. Once these prototypes meet performance specifications, IMAX expects to proceed with a full rollout during the second half of the third quarter and in the fourth quarter of 2008.

According to IMAX, the new system will "dramatically enhance the image fidelity, light output and contrast in both 2D and 3D to produce a stunningly crisp and bright image on the big IMAX screen and deliver the unparalleled image and sound quality that IMAX consumers have come to recognize and enjoy."

The digital systems will be able to be deployed in IMAX MPX installations, which is a version of an IMAX theater that is intended to be more economical than a full-sized IMAX installation.

Given the fact that digital projection is just now approaching the performance of well-done 35mm film presentations, and the fact that IMAX film is ten times the size of standard 35mm film (giving IMAX a huge leg up in potential picture quality), it's hard to imagine how such a system will be able to match or exceed the best film IMAX presentations. What this change will probably do, however, is to open up the ability for many more theaters to have IMAX presentations since they will not have to handle the large film stock and projection equipment that IMAX theaters traditionally have required.

As movie theaters strive for ways to compete with home theater systems that their customers are installing, IMAX and 3D technologies (and in some cases, IMAX 3D) will probably become more prevalent.

While I have sat in wonder when attending the "Pictorium" IMAX screen at Great America in Gurnee, Illinois and gasped as the hanglider that the camera was mounted to went over a cliff, I've never been as impressed with the recent "IMAX Experience" movies. One of the primary differences, I think, is that the films created for IMAX were made with cameras using IMAX film, which has the ability to capture much more detail than 35mm film, and the difference shows on the screen. The "IMAX Experience" movies that are blow-ups of 35mm source material don't get any sharper, they just get bigger. If you've ever seen a true 70mm presentation in a movie theater, you know what I mean.

Will "IMAX Digital" or whatever they're going to call it use 10 times the number of Digital Cinema projection chips to achieve the image that we see on the screen? I don't see any details on how they're doing it, as any details are hidden under the umbrella of "proprietary technologies." Time will tell, I guess!

Press Release

IMAX Sets Target Launch Date of Digital Projection Technology

Prototype Theatres to be Deployed Q2 2008

Digital System to Set New Standards of Excellence in Cinematic Presentation and Further Distinguish The IMAX Experience(R)

Leading Exhibitors Already On-Board for Digital Installations

TORONTO, Oct. 17 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ - IMAX Corporation (NASDAQ:IMAX; TSX:IMX) today announced that it has moved up the launch date of its digital projection system in development to the second quarter of 2008 from its previously announced timeframe of the end of 2008 to mid 2009. The highly anticipated IMAX(R) digital projection system will further enhance The IMAX Experience(R) and help to drive profitability for studios, exhibitors and IMAX(R) theatres by virtually eliminating the need for film prints, increasing program flexibility and ultimately increasing the number of movies shown on IMAX screens.

Under the current roll-out schedule, the Company anticipates that three digital IMAX prototypes will be installed during the second quarter of 2008. Shortly thereafter, IMAX expects to install three additional prototypes. Once these prototypes meet performance specifications, IMAX expects to proceed with a full rollout during the second half of the third quarter and in the fourth quarter of 2008.

"We've invested significant resources toward the development of our digital projection technology and we are excited about bringing it out of research and development and into the marketplace," said IMAX's Co-Chairmen and Co-CEOs, Richard L. Gelfond and Bradley J. Wechsler. "Several key exhibitors, studios and consumer research groups have already experienced the digital prototype we've been running for the past several months, and we are very encouraged by the unanimously positive reaction to the next iteration of The IMAX Experience."

IMAX's Digital System to Set New Standards in Cinematic Presentation for Consumers, Studios and Exhibitors

IMAX's digital projection system integrates a suite of proprietary IMAX intellectual properties with commercially available digital projection technology in a way that creates The IMAX Experience in a digital format. These properties, along with proprietary technology applied to the content, dramatically enhance the image fidelity, light output and contrast in both 2D and 3D to produce a stunningly crisp and bright image on the big IMAX screen and deliver the unparalleled image and sound quality that IMAX consumers have come to recognize and enjoy. In consumer testing conducted by Millward Brown, a respected market research firm, 98 percent of respondents who had seen IMAX before/were able to make the comparison, said that the prototype IMAX digital system fits with their expectations for the brand, and 46 percent said that the overall experience in the digital IMAX theatre was better than previous IMAX experiences.

The new system is configured for an IMAX MPX(R)-style auditorium and is capable of showing Hollywood movies that have been digitally re-mastered using IMAX's proprietary DMR(R) technology in both IMAX and IMAX(R) 3D. The system will also be capable of showing original IMAX documentaries.

Commercial Theatre Operators Endorse IMAX's Digital System and its Business Model

IMAX has already announced several multi-theatre agreements which are to include the new digital projection system. The Company has also indicated that it intends to offer and sell upgrades to the new digital system to commercial operators who have IMAX MPX systems.

In North America, IMAX signed a joint venture agreement with Regal Cinemas for five systems, with three of the locations identified as direct to digital installs during the fourth quarter of 2008 and second quarter of 2009. Similarly, IMAX signed a joint venture agreement with Muvico Theaters for three systems, with the third targeted to be a digital install in Muvico's highly anticipated Xanadu complex in New Jersey. The Company also entered into a second multi-theatre agreement with Goodrich Quality Theaters, following the highly successful launch of the exhibitor's first two theatres. The new agreement includes a digital installation in a new multiplex planned for the fourth quarter of 2009.

Internationally, IMAX announced its largest ever multiple-theatre deal in Asia with China's Wanda Cinema Line Corporation. The agreement includes seven locations expected to utilize IMAX's digital projection system.

About IMAX Corporation

IMAX Corporation is one of the world's leading digital entertainment and technology companies. The worldwide IMAX network is among the most important and successful theatrical distribution platforms for major event Hollywood films around the globe, with IMAX theatres delivering the world's best cinematic presentations using proprietary IMAX, IMAX 3D, and IMAX DMR technology. IMAX DMR is the Company's groundbreaking digital remastering technology that allows it to digitally transform virtually any conventional motion picture into the unparalleled image and sound quality of The IMAX Experience. IMAX's renowned projectors and new digital systems display crystal-clear images on the world's biggest screens. The IMAX brand is recognized throughout the world for extraordinary and immersive entertainment experiences for consumers. As of June 30, 2007, there were 290 IMAX theatres operating in 40 countries.

IMAX(R), IMAX(R) 3D, IMAX DMR(R), IMAX MPX(R), and The IMAX Experience(R) are trademarks of IMAX Corporation. More information on the Company can be found at www.imax.com.

This press release contains forward looking statements that are based on management's assumptions and existing information and involve certain risks and uncertainties which could cause actual results to differ materially from future results expressed or implied by such forward looking statements. Important factors that could affect these statements include ongoing discussions with the SEC and OSC relating to their ongoing inquiries and the Company's financial reporting and accounting, the timing of theatre system deliveries, the mix of theatre systems shipped, the timing of the recognition of revenues and expenses on film production and distribution agreements, the performance of films, the viability of new businesses and products, risks arising from potential material weaknesses in internal control over financial reporting and fluctuations in foreign currency and in the large format and general commercial exhibition market. These factors and other risks and uncertainties are discussed in the Company's Annual Reports on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2006, as well as the Company's Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q.

Source: IMAX Corporation



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