Sony makes 4K play

Wants to make higher resolution more widely available

Sony Pictures Entertainment has adopted a new strategy that would offer higher-resolution 4K content to digital cinema theaters.

In related news, SPE, along with 20th Century Fox and Paramount Pictures, has entered into separate -- nonexclusive and global -- virtual print fee-style digital cinema deployment agreement with Sony Electronics' Digital Cinema Solutions and Services group. DCSS is creating a deployment program for exhibitors through which Sony would install, maintain and support Sony's 4K digital cinema projectors, while offering financing plans.

Currently, the majority of digital cinema deliverables -- which are the digital equivalent of film prints -- are 2K files delivered to digital cinema theaters that offer 2K projection. A 4K image contains four times as much picture information as what is found in 2K.

Only a handful of d-cinema releases have been delivered in 4K, the most recent being Sony's "Hancock." Sony Electronics makes the only 4K digital cinema projector currently on the market. It is installed in slightly more than 200 domestic locations. 4K also has been gaining traction in archiving and restoration circles that are planning for the long term.

"The crisp and vibrant images provided by 4K are the only way to ensure that audiences both today and in the future will really be able to see the full range of what we can capture on film," said Gary Martin, SPE's president of production administration and studio operations.

Still, industry opinions vary about whether the average moviegoer sees a noticeable difference when 4k is shown through current projection technology.

Movies released in 4K can play in theaters with 2K or 4K projectors, although it is the 4K projectors that will support the added picture information. Titles released in 2K also can be played on projectors that support both resolutions, but the 2K projectors will essentially take 2K picture information, while the 4K would generate the added image data.

Among the next Sony titles expected to be offered in 4K are "2012," "Salt" and "The Green Hornet."

On the studio deployment deals, Bruce Snyder, Fox's president of domestic distribution and Paul Hanneman and Tomas Jegeus, co-presidents of 20th Century Fox International, said in a joint statement: "Fox is committed to supporting the highest-quality solutions for exhibitors as they make their transition to digital cinema on a global basis. It is important that exhibitors worldwide have the widest choice of solutions available to them."

Added Jim Tharp, Paramount's president of domestic theatrical distribution: "Paramount is committed to maximizing new, creative opportunities to encourage the conversion to digital projection and to broadening the availability of high quality 3-D cinema."

Sony Electronics also reported on Thursday that its developing single-projector 3-D adaptor, designed to work with its 4K projectors in movie theaters, is expected to meet the specifications of studio consortium Digital Cinema Initiatives and be available to exhibitors in March.
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