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Imax is set to showcase its new laser projection system Wednesday at Universal’s Furious 7 global premiere at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles. This is the first such installation in the U.S. and the second worldwide, while Furious 7 marks Imax’s widest global release at roughly 800 screens.
Representing a $60 million development effort, the new Imax projection and sound system — which The Hollywood Reporter previewed in advance of the premiere — is the company’s most advanced system yet. “We know film is going away,” Brian Bonnick, Imax’s chief technology officer, said, noting that with the laser projectors the company aimed to create a digital system that would “meet or exceed” Imax’s 15/70mm film format.
Lasers can project a much brighter image than today’s widely used Xenon lamps, and Imax is using them to offer 22 FootLamberts (a measurement of light), as well as a wider color gamut and higher dynamic range than its Xenon system. High dynamic range — the range between the whitest whites and blackest blacks — has Hollywood particularly excited as it is widely considered a more compelling update than higher resolution.
The Imax-developed system incorporates two laser projectors, as well as intellectual property that the company exclusively licensed from Eastman Kodak, and additional technology made by Barco. Imax laser installations will also offer an upgraded sound system with 12 channels of audio (the existing system has six channels), bringing four new channels to the theater ceiling and an additional channel to each side wall, in addition to a new tuning system. All of this is designed for Imax theaters with screens larger than 75 feet (the TCL has a 90-foot screen).
Imax’s laser-based projector debuted with The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies, last December at Scotiabank Theatre in Toronto, where Imax is headquartered. The TCL Chinese is the first U.S. installation, and the company reports that 71 systems have already been sold. The next planned installation is at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle.
Upcoming Imax releases for the laser-installed theaters including Avengers 2: Age of Ultron and Tomorrowland. These movies will go through the Imax Digital Re-mastering (DRM) process, though this will be a different version than the one used for Xenon-based Imax digital projectors.
Separately, Dolby is in the process of launching a premium cinema brand, dubbed Dolby Cinema, that will include laser-projection for high dynamic range and Dolby Atmos sound.
1:15 pm, April 1 Updated with additional information.
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