Sony unit: Let's get digital

Launches new 4K theater projectors

LAS VEGAS -- Sony Electronics launched two new 4K digital-cinema projectors here Tuesday that are designed for projection in movie theaters and follow the specifications of the studio consortium Digital Cinema Initiatives.

Sony also said at ShoWest that Muvico Entertainment will install the projectors in the company's new Chicago-area entertainment complex as the initial step in converting to digital-cinema projection the chain's 12 theaters, consisting of 228 screens nationwide.

"We didn't feel the 2K model differentiated enough the theater experience," said Muvico president and CEO Michael Whalen Jr., explaining why he chose the projection systems. "The 4K, we think, is a true differentiation."

4K is four times the picture information in a 2K file, and so the time and cost associated with producing 4K content is an issue.

"The future is a total 4K workflow," said Andrew Stucker, director of Sony's newly formed digital cinema systems unit. "But we anticipate 2K dominating, at least for the next couple of years."

Beta testing will soon begin on the Sony SRX-R210, a 10,000-lumen projector designed to display 2K or 4K on screens that are about 40 feet wide, and the SRX-R220, an 18,000-plumen projector designed for screens about 55 feet wide or larger, whose development was initially announced in October at ShowEast. Priced at about $100,000 and $105,000, respectively, the projectors cost about $25,000 less that the earlier series of Sony SXRD 4K projectors, intended as multipurpose systems.

This price decrease is notable, as several speakers Monday at ShoWest cited the cost of projectors as an issue that is slowing digital cinema deployment.

"We knew we had to migrate our efficiencies and the way we manufacture while still meeting the requirements of the DCI specification," Stucker said.

A combination of the two newly announced projectors will be installed in the Muvico locations, beginning with an 18-screen "premier concept" facility scheduled to open in August in Illinois; this will offer adults reserved seating, oversized love seats, valet parking, a children's playroom and access to a restaurant and bar.

Three additional Muvico theaters are scheduled for conversion to the new projection technology by 2008.

Sony's digital-cinema projection technology was scheduled to be used during a 3-D session Tuesday at ShoWest, which was postponed until 11 a.m. today because of a "power issue," Stucker said.