4K window to future at L.A.'s new Landmark

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The debut of Landmark Theatres' new flagship complex called the Landmark, which opens Friday at Los Angeles' Westside Pavilion, prompts a closer examination of 4K resolution digital cinema, which represents four times the picture information found in today's commonly used 2K digital cinema resolution.

The Landmark opens with three theaters equipped with Sony's SXRD 4K digital cinema projectors. These — and one at the Landmark-owned NuArt — represent the only screens in Los Angeles that offer 4K projection for paying audiences.

Landmark already has ordered about 25 4K projectors from Sony, which is the only manufacturer offering 4K digital cinema projectors to theater owners. In addition to Los Angeles, there are installations in Landmark theaters in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Indianapolis, New York, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington. Plans are to also install 4K technology in Baltimore and Denver.

The 4K dialogue in the film community extends well beyond projection, including production, post and mastering.

Landmark Theatres — part of the Wagner/Cuban Cos. co-owned by Todd Wagner and Mark Cuban that includes Magnolia Pictures, Magnolia Home Entertainment, HDNet Films, 2929 Prods., HDNet and HDNet Movies — is looking at the bigger picture. Cuban said he selected 4K projection technology "because cameras were being developed that did 4K and we wanted to be ready for them.

"4K to 4K is the best quality available," he said.

Of course, this requires a steady flow of 4K content. Sony Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures have created select 4K deliverables, but today's digital cinema content is typically available in 2K.

"(4K content) is being developed as we speak," Cuban said. "HDNet plans on actively using 4K for productions and for distribution of content beyond just 4K theatrical." He said that some of the upcoming films he is producing would be mastering and distributed in 4K, though he declined to reveal details.

Citing the aforementioned 4K content from Sony and Warners, Andrew Stucker, director of Sony's digital cinema systems unit, said: "It's still an expensive proposition. While 4K is coming, we expect the majority of the content will be 2K."

Stucker predicted that this would be the case for at least another year. "There needs to be a healthy number of 4K projectors out there. We hope to take care of that over the next year," he said.

Pointing to the added cost of 4K rendering and digital intermediate work, Stucker added: "There is a dollar difference. As those costs come down in the next 12-18 months, we hope to see 4K Digital Cinema Packages going out the door."

It appears that initially, Landmark theatergoers will get a look at 4K imagery through select trailers as well as clips of 4K content that will be supplied by Sony as preshow content. "The idea is to give audiences the visual concept of what 4K will mean for them when it finally does get going," Stucker said.

The Landmark opens with a total of 12 auditoriums, three with 4K projection, three with Panasonic 2K digital cinema projectors and all 12 with film projectors. Dolby Digital EX Surround Sound and Klipsch speakers will create the audio experiences. Digital cinema deliverables would be received via hard drives on files, though Jason Hudak, vp technology at Landmark Theatres, said the company is looking into broadband delivery options.
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