Sony unveils new 4K projector

Demoing new equipment at Cinema Expo

AMSTERDAM -- The trade show floor at Cinema Expo 2008 is filled with the customary popcorn, theater-seat and tech vendors, but Sony Electronics reps are steering prospective customers to a secret demo suite to view something potentially much more watershed.

Sony has unveiled a 4K digital projector with easy adaptability to 3-D projection. Previously, two of the pricey projectors were necessary to rig an auditorium for 4K 3-D, preventing the wide use of the high-resolution systems for 3-D exhibition.

Once considered the next-generation technology for digital cinema, Sony's 4K systems have been struggling to overcome cost and manufacturing woes, and more conventional 2K d-cinema systems have remained the prevalent hardware in the marketplace. So Sony executives -- hoping soon to remedy the additional 3-D headache -- are demonstrating prototypes of the new 4K projectors with the aim of bringing the hardware to market by Christmas.

"It's from the customer that you get the best feedback," said Tore Mortensen, a Sony business manager now working with theater operators in Norway to test 3-D 4K projectors in four multiplexes.

Elsewhere at the confab Wednesday, Arts Alliance Media announced a 3-D addition to its alternative-programming offerings for d-cinema.

Arts Alliance will feature a first-ever 3-D opera presentation when it adds a Royal Opera House production of "Hansel and Gretel" to its programming lineup next year. Plans call for up to a half-dozen Royal Opera performances to be offered to patrons at cinemas throughout Europe and Australia.

Earlier in the day, two more studios offered energetic slate presentations.

Warner Bros. showed a brief montage of clips from "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," a sixth installment in the $4.48 billion franchise that's set for a holidays release. By video, Daniel Radcliffe also introduced a "Harry" retrospective.

Warners international distribution president Veronika Kwan-Rubinek told exhibitors that "Prince" would be distributed in "digital, 35mm and Imax, with select scenes in 3-D."

Exhibitors also saw new footage from another fourth-quarter debutante -- "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett -- and got a peek at the first trailer for the fall's Leonardo DiCaprio-Russell Crowe starrer "Body of Lies," with a brief intro by director Ridley Scott. An extended clip from Guy Ritchie's fall-slotted "Rocknrolla," starring Gerald Butler, Tom Wilkinson and Jeremy Piven, drew a good audience reaction.

Warners also screened its soon-to-bow Batman sequel "The Dark Knight" in a local Imax auditorium, the first time the Christian Bale starrer had been screened in the Imax format. Helmer Christopher Nolan shot about 30 minutes of the two-hour, 25-minute film with Imax cameras.

Disney, which followed its slate presentation with an evening screening of this weekend's animated feature "Wall-E," presented trailers and sneak peeks from year-end titles. Those included the youthful sequel "High School Musical 3: Senior Year," the family comedy "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" and "Bolt," its 3-D-animated feature about a TV star superdog.

With five 3-D movies in various stages of production, Disney execs also touted extra-dimensional 2009 releases including Robert Zemeckis' "A Christmas Carol." Disney international distribution topper Anthony Marcoly said next summer's "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" -- one of three titles involving uber-producer Jerry Bruckheimer -- is expected to launch the studio's next major film franchise.

Arts Alliance and Christie Digital co-hosted a soccer-watching party at night for the throngs of European exhibitors anxious to catch a telecast of the Euro 2008 semifinal match between Germany and Turkey. Afterwards, Universal screened its summer musical comedy "Mamma Mia!" in a last-minute addition to the nighttime schedule.

Cinema Expo -- produced by the Nielsen Film Group, a division of Nielsen Business Media, parent company of The Hollywood Reporter -- concludes is four-day run at the RAI convention center Thursday with some final screenings and an awards banquet.