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IMAX - The Biggest Name in 3D

CreativeCOW presents IMAX - The Biggest Name in 3D -- Stereoscopic 3D Feature

"Monsters vs. Aliens" is a line in the sand, a point -at which things changed.

I think that the first line in the sand was "Polar Express." Jeffrey Katzenberg refers to it as "the eureka moment," when the world said, holy cow, when 3D is done in a certain way, and exhibited a certain way, it has the opportunity to not only be a differentiated experience, but to produce significant incremental revenue." I believe that "Polar Express" was the impetus for this giant new 3D surge.

"Monsters vs. Aliens" was a line in the sand because it was the first that was properly sold as a wide 3D release, that generated north of 50% of its revenue from 3D, and that was authored with 3D tools.

This is as opposed to being a movie that was not made in stereo, but made in 2D, and kludged into 3D. It was also, on the exhibition side, the most screens ever for a 3D film until that point.

When we look back in 10 years, and think about where and when things changed, my guess is that the three 3D moments that produced that change are "Polar Express," "Monsters vs. Aliens," and James Cameron's "Avatar."


MORE SCREENS

Adding new screens to show all of this 3D content isn't a logjam for IMAX because we're not part of the DCIP rollout. The credit markets have been tricky right now, but we're self-financed. Conditions are a problem for us in the grand scheme because we are part of the community, but they're not a problem for us in terms of our own rollout.

[Ed. note: The Digital Conversion Implementation Partners is a partnership between the top three theater chains, with commitments from five major studios, whose expansion plans have been tempered by recent economic conditions.]

We actually have more than two hundred Digital IMAX screens coming over the course of the next 18 months. We've already sold them, and are now installing them as quickly as we possibly can.

We were once just a company in Toronto whose theaters were in most of the cool museums, science centers, and aquariums around the world that you could possibly be in, and we made fabulous 40-minute documentary films. As wonderful as they were, we were starting to get a little bit too far on the education side, and a little bit too distant from the entertainment side.

We used to do some 2D and some 3D documentary films, be we have started making only 3D films. We have also moved the bar a little bit more in the middle of the education/entertainment continuum, in slow and steady steps to make sure we weren't offending anyone.

At the same time, we created a technology called DMR (Digital Remastering) that lets us take commercially- released Hollywood films and convert them into IMAX. We have now created ostensibly three or four film businesses.

The first is our documentary movies. "Deep Sea 3D" just crossed $80 million at the box office. Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet narrated, Howard Hall directed, and Danny Elfman did the music. It was also produced and written by Toni Myers, who has produced, edited, written or directed around 20 IMAX features, including "IMAX: Hubble 3D," which is currently in production. "Under the Sea 3D" is out now, narrated by Jim Carrey, and with the same crew.

The second is our Hollywood, family-oriented movies, in both 3D and 2D, such as "Polar Express," movies from DreamWorks Animation, the Harry Potter films, etc.

And then we have our fanboy movies, edgier fare that's really working for us. It's a new demographic that we started cultivating with Christopher Nolan and "Batman Begins." They love our stuff - they're the ones buying advance tickets for movies like "Star Trek" - and I say this with the utmost affection: we love those freaks. We embrace them, honor them, and work very hard to deliver the coolest movies possible for that crowd.

Along with our documentaries and family-oriented films, it makes for a very balanced set of programming.


IMAX camera
Astronaut Bill Shepherd uses an IMAX camera aboard the International Space Station. (Courtesy of NASA.)

DIGITAL IMAX 3D

I can't tell you exactly what the inside of a Digital IMAX 3D projection booth looks like. I can tell you that it has two projectors, with an IMAX image enhancer that amps up the presentation.

Before going digital, we didn't have the reach into a lot of the international territories, and we couldn't get that reach without Hollywood films.

Combine that demand with the lower cost of entry into our business through digital technology, and we've been able to cast a wider net.

We have digital theaters now in Australia. We have one that just opened up in Taipei. We have three that are opening up in June for Transformers in Japan. We have two in the UK. We have some opening up in the next six weeks in Austria. We are all over the place.

Our first step in the chain begins with a visionary filmmaker, with a great studio partner, with a movie that is conceived to take you somewhere you dream about going, but will probably never get to. That can be Hogwarts. That can be Gotham City. That can be the Enterprise. That can be under the sea. That can be International Space Station or the Hubble Telescope.

When we hit those three characteristics, those three qualifiers, then we want to be involved with that movie.

Eilat, IsraelValencia, SpainDaegu, KoreaWurzburg, Germany







Greg FosterGreg Foster
Los Angeles, California USA

Greg Foster is IMAX's President of Filmed Entertainment. Before joining the company in 2001, he was the Executive Vice-President of Production at MGM/ UA, playing a key role in over 150 films, including Get Shorty, Rain Man, Species, Thelma and Louise, King Pin, A Fish Called Wanda, Moonstruck, and several of the James Bond, 007 pictures.



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Comments

Why not to invest on IMAX Stock then?
by Libardo Lambrano
You may find this article about the future of IMAX very interesting http://syndikomm.com/blog/?p=77
re: IMAX, film and size
by Tim Wilson
Todd, IMAX's own features are shot on film, and projected on film in traditional IMAX theaters. Even non-IMAX features acquired digitally to be shown in those theaters are printed to film. (There are actually quite a variety of sizes and configurations of those screens, btw, including domes.)

This film-only aspect will surely eventually change, but we're nowhere near that yet. Digital cinema projectors are virtually all 2K, with only a very few 4K projectors coming on. 4K cameras have been more aimed at 35mm, rather than IMAX's 69.6mm. And as you can see in John Daro's article about 3D DI in this issue, even 4K is typically scaled down to 2K for post. Again, this will surely eventually change..but not soon.

(Worth noting, too, re: 2K: it's mostly 1920x1080. Jim Mainard notes in this issue that DreamWorks rendered Monsters vs. Aliens at 1920. James Cameron is shooting Avatar at 1920. The list goes on and on.)

Keep in mind, too, that to fill the largest IMAX screens, images are magnified nearly 600 times. A 70mm frame is going to handle that better than any 2K, or even 4K, image. That said, IMAX has built proprietary scalers for its digital cinemas...which brings us to...

Harley, there are indeed two schools of thought related to the size of new digital screens. Where possible, larger screens are installed. Either way, the front rows of seats are removed and the screens brought forward to create an effectively larger size, and to bring the edges of the screen closer to the edge of your peripheral vision. You know that this is true, that when you get closer to anything, it looks bigger.

Note too that the features shown in the IMAX digital theaters are generally not IMAX's own, but more mainstream fare. It works.

As filmmakers, we also know that audio is a huge part of the "viewing" experience. These IMAX digital theaters are totally tricked out with IMAX audio, and I have to tell you, IMO, it's a huge difference.

While the naysayers have been more vocal than the people enjoying it, this is the case with everything, isn't it? The numbers are very clear: people are going to IMAX digital theaters more and more, and are coming back.

Finally, it's a short piece, but I have to confess that I was absolutely floored to see that IMAX has committed to doing all of its features in 3D! How did I miss that? Maybe in the excitement over DreamWorks announcing they were going all 3D for their animated features. In any case, I think this changes the way we'll think about 3D. The point of, say, a 3D view of the Hubble Telescope isn't about gimmicks with balls being bounced into the audience. It's about making compelling images more compelling.

If it sounds like I'm a cheerleader, I am. I've been an IMAX addict since I first saw "To Fly!" at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum in 1976. I've been to IMAX theaters of all sizes, and I think they're getting it right.
brand dilution
by Todd Bradley
Tim, the IMAX you became addicted to in 1976 is clearly not the IMAX they're promoting today. I'm also a long time fan, and I'm really disappointed they're letting their brand become so diluted. In 15 years, we'll all be able to point a finger at the "IMAX 3D" initiative and say, "Yup, that's where IMAX jumped the shark."

And I can't believe you - a filmmaking professional - bought into the crap about moving the screen forward. By that logic, displaying an IMAX film on a 12 inch screen attached to the end of your nose would be even better! It's not just about filling the entirety of the viewer's visual range.
The iMax small screen
by Harley Toberman
To bad he didn't mention that the 200 new screens that iMax is installing will probably be not the big screen that everyone associates with the "Imax Experience" but smaller normal screen size and yet still asking Imax prices. People will be bummed.
filmed entertainment?
by Todd Bradley
Isn't it a little ironic that the "President of Filmed Entertainment" is promoting a system where content is generated digitally and projected digitally, without film?


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