IMAX Corporation (NASDAQ:IMAX; TSX:IMX) today announced that it has moved up the launch date of its digital projection system in development to the second quarter of 2008 from its previously announced timeframe of the end of 2008 to mid 2009. The highly anticipated IMAX(R) digital projection system will further enhance The IMAX Experience(R) and help to drive profitability for studios, exhibitors and IMAX(R) theatres by virtually eliminating the need for film prints, increasing program flexibility and ultimately increasing the number of movies shown on IMAX screens.
Under the current roll-out schedule, the Company anticipates that three digital IMAX prototypes will be installed during the second quarter of 2008. Shortly thereafter, IMAX expects to install three additional prototypes. Once these prototypes meet performance specifications, IMAX expects to proceed with a full rollout during the second half of the third quarter and in the fourth quarter of 2008.
"We've invested significant resources toward the development of our digital projection technology and we are excited about bringing it out of research and development and into the marketplace," said IMAX's Co-Chairmen and Co-CEOs, Richard L. Gelfond and Bradley J. Wechsler. "Several key exhibitors, studios and consumer research groups have already experienced the digital prototype we've been running for the past several months, and we are very encouraged by the unanimously positive reaction to the next iteration of The IMAX Experience."
IMAX's Digital System to Set New Standards in Cinematic Presentation for Consumers, Studios and Exhibitors
IMAX's digital projection system integrates a suite of proprietary IMAX intellectual properties with commercially available digital projection technology in a way that creates The IMAX Experience in a digital format. These properties, along with proprietary technology applied to the content, dramatically enhance the image fidelity, light output and contrast in both 2D and 3D to produce a stunningly crisp and bright image on the big IMAX screen and deliver the unparalleled image and sound quality that IMAX consumers have come to recognize and enjoy. In consumer testing conducted by Millward Brown, a respected market research firm, 98 percent of respondents who had seen IMAX before/were able to make the comparison, said that the prototype IMAX digital system fits with their expectations for the brand, and 46 percent said that the overall experience in the digital IMAX theatre was better than previous IMAX experiences.
The new system is configured for an IMAX MPX(R)-style auditorium and is capable of showing Hollywood movies that have been digitally re-mastered using IMAX's proprietary DMR(R) technology in both IMAX and IMAX(R) 3D. The system will also be capable of showing original IMAX documentaries.
Commercial Theatre Operators Endorse IMAX's Digital System and its Business Model
IMAX has already announced several multi-theatre agreements which are to include the new digital projection system. The Company has also indicated that it intends to offer and sell upgrades to the new digital system to commercial operators who have IMAX MPX systems.
In North America, IMAX signed a joint venture agreement with Regal Cinemas for five systems, with three of the locations identified as direct to digital installs during the fourth quarter of 2008 and second quarter of 2009. Similarly, IMAX signed a joint venture agreement with Muvico Theaters for three systems, with the third targeted to be a digital install in Muvico's highly anticipated Xanadu complex in New Jersey. The Company also entered into a second multi-theatre agreement with Goodrich Quality Theaters, following the highly successful launch of the exhibitor's first two theatres. The new agreement includes a digital installation in a new multiplex planned for the fourth quarter of 2009.
Internationally, IMAX announced its largest ever multiple-theatre deal in Asia with China's Wanda Cinema Line Corporation. The agreement includes seven locations expected to utilize IMAX's digital projection system.