Imax Demos New Laser Technology to Mostly Bright Reception

Projector prototype, sound system were shown to 250-plus industry execs in early November

A group of studio and exhibition executives, as well as filmmakers, gathered early this month to witness Imax’s newst toy — a laser projection prototype — in action.

Feedback has been bright, yet reserved for the final product.

The new system, which Imax showcased at its home office in Santa Monica, features dual 4K laser digital projectors for both 2D and 3D systems, the first of its kind, along with an enhanced sound system that represents the largest research and development investment in the history of Imax.

“This is a technology that I’ve been looking forward to coming online for a while now,” said Joseph Kosinski, director of “Tron: Legacy” and “Oblivion.” Kosinski added that he is most excited about the system’s impact on 3D presentation.

“Laser promises to bring up the brightness levels to where they always should have been for 3D,” said Kosinski, who was joined by roughly 250-300 museum and industry professionals who were spread across several hour-long presentations held during the week of November 4-8.

To date, Imax has inked approximately 20 laser deals worldwide, with upgrades at theaters including the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood, AMC’s Lincoln Square in New York, Sydney’s Darling Harbor location and the Smithsonian’s three Imax locations in Washington D.C. Imax plans to begin installation by the end of 2014.

“Both the AMC and Wanda teams were really excited about what we saw,” said Elizabeth Frank, exec VP and chief content and programming officer for AMC Theatres. “The combination of the more immersive audio and the depth of the visuals took the experience to a whole new level.”

Still, not everyone is sold entirely.

“They are very skilled at what they do,” said Roger Harris, chief operating officer for Odeon, the largest theater chain in the U.K. and Ireland, “but nothing is guaranteed when you’re trying to develop very sophisticated technology.”

Harris noted that in order to justify the cost of conversion, which will vary from theater to theater, audiences — but more importantly, fans of Imax — will need to be able to see a difference in the quality of presentation. That’s something Harris is confident will happen, however.

“The difference between the blacks and whites were clear to me,” Harris noted, “and in order to make the investment, you have to believe more people will come.”

Imax had no comment for this story.