CJ Group, the South Korean conglomerate behind the 4DX 4D cinema system, is aiming to bring a 270-degree Cinerama-like “ScreenX” theater experience to the U.S. It will be demoed for theater owners April 20-23 at CinemaCon in Las Vegas.
ScreenX is a three-screen configuration that puts the images on the front and sides of a theater. The screen technology would run across the side walls, using six projectors per wall and stitching the images together (meaning that the system uses a total of 13 projectors). According to the company, ScreenX is projector and server agnostic, though digital cinema projector maker Christie and server maker HP are working closely with CJ as preferred vendors.
This model could be likened to and will no doubt compete for auditoriums with Barco’s Escape, a three-screen Cinerama-like installation introduced in 2014. The Barco system uses a single screen and single projector for each of the side walls.
CJ currently operates 75 ScreenX screens in 44 locations in South Korea, and one in Bangkok, but these are used primarily for advertising and have yet to support a feature-length film. Theodore Kim, senior vp theater development for 4DPlex and ScreenX, told The Hollywood Reporter that CJ aims to take ScreenX to the global cinema market, but it is currently targeting its efforts on the U.S. and Chinese markets. He claims the company is seeing some early interest from negotiations with the studios about providing content.
He hopes to have the first installations in the U.S. in 2016. The business model would be a profit-sharing arrangement between CJ and the theater owners, which is the model it uses for its 4DX system, one of which is offered at L.A. Live. Kim said CJ is still considering options, including a co-investment to cover the pricey technology and installation costs.
Theater owners want to differentiate a cinema experience from what consumers can get at home, and so Cinerama-type installations, along with options such as 3D, 4D and immersive sound have all been introduced with this in mind. However, speaking last month at the Hollywood Professional Alliance Tech Retreat, National Association of Theater Owners CEO John Fithian warned that costs are a key issue, saying, “[These technologies] all have great potential — but they are expensive. … Yes, we should lead with the best experience, but we aren’t going to pay to do everything first.”
ScreenX would also have many considerations on the production side, as filmmakers would have extra screen real estate to use in their storytelling, though they would also need to protect for the typical theater aspect ratio that would be seen by most theatergoers. Kim believes animated features could be the first to use ScreenX.
This would also require an additional delivery version of the movie that could be played by the ScreenX system.
Theater owners will have the opportunity to see this system next month at CinemaCon, where CJ is putting a temporary installation of the ScreenX system at Las Vegas’ AMC Town Square 18. Clips will include premiere footage from the live show Odysseo.