Imax, Regal pact on digital screens

Multi-year deal promises five theaters

In a multitheater deal inked Tuesday with Regal Cinemas, Imax will bring its nascent digital projection technology to North America.

Regal and the Toronto-based large-screen format company have entered into a joint venture for five Imax theater systems. Two of them — skedded to be running in Knoxville, Tenn., and Las Vegas by the end of the year — use the company’s MPX technology (which allows multiplexes to enter large-format technology in a cost-effective way), while the other three — in Seattle and two other locations in the western U.S. — will use the company’s digital projection technology, set to go live in late 2008.

The digital theaters are scheduled to open in late 2008 and the middle of 2009, while the company says the two “film-based” cinemas will be upgraded for the digital technology when it becomes available.

Move does not rep the first time the companies have worked together. Knoxville-based Regal and Imax have deals for 16 theaters, joint ventures in Portland, Ore., and San Diego that opened in May.

B.O. tracker Rentrak noted that biz at the two joint-venture Regal/Imax multiplex locations was up 31% from May to September vs. increases of about 10% for the same period at similar complexes in similar markets for the same period.

Imax’s film slate includes “Transformers,” released Sept. 21, Robert Zemeckis’ “Beowulf” on Nov. 16 and “I Am Legend,” starring Will Smith, on Dec. 14.