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Fandango to Sell ‘Imax Enhanced’ Movies Exclusively in U.S., Initially on Sony Bravia TVs

Fandango’s FandangoNow will become the first U.S. digital retailer to sell Imax Enhanced films released to home video, expected beginning in the second quarter of 2019 on Sony’s Bravia TVs.

Imax Enhanced establishes specs for content producers and consumer-electronics makers for Imax’s digitally remastered 4K HDR and DTS audio content — a proprietary encoding layer on top of the industry standards that Imax and its partners claim delivers unparalleled sound and video quality.

The first Imax Enhanced movies coming to FandangoNow are set to include Sony Pictures/Marvel’s “Venom” and Sony/Studio 8’s “Alpha,” as well as more than 100 Imax documentary feature titles. Additionally, Paramount Pictures will launch its first Imax Enhanced titles in 2019. FandangoNow will sell the Imax Enhanced titles for the same price as 4K Ultra HD versions. The announcement was timed for CES 2019.

In addition to the FandangoNow partnership, Imax announced deals with China’s Tencent Video and Rakuten TV for Europe to stream Imax Enhanced content to certified devices beginning in 2019.

“This feels like a game-changer,” said Cameron Douglas, Fandango’s VP of home entertainment. “I see it as a differentiator for us, for people looking for the best 4K content.”

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Douglas said Imax Enhanced content, when viewed on compatible HDTVs, is like “HDR on steroids,” referring to High Dynamic Range, a spec that dramatically expands contrast levels and color palette of video.

Imax Enhanced represents a new rival for Dolby Laboratories’ Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos enhanced video and audio technologies. FandangoNow doesn’t support content in Dolby Vision, which is available through services including Apple iTunes, Netflix, Amazon and Vudu.

A feature of Imax Enhanced is that it lets content owners control technical aspects of how their works are played back on TVs and audio equipment — ideally, as close as possible to the filmmaker intended. That includes establishing a preset “Imax mode” on the devices, which may include disabling the “motion smoothing” on HDTVs (a controversial feature decried by Tom Cruise and others). In addition, Imax Enhanced titles that were shot with Imax cameras or specially formatted for Imax theaters also will include an expanded aspect ratio for the film’s home release.

Terms of Fandango’s pact for Imax Enhanced weren’t disclosed; it’s not clear whether money is changing hands among the parties. Under the promotional pact, FandangoNow is the exclusive U.S. transactional VOD service for Imax Enhanced titles.

Companies that have signed on to the Imax Enhanced initiative, announced in September 2018 in partnership with Xperi’s DTS, include Sony Electronics, Sony Pictures, Paramount Pictures and Sound United, whose home-entertainment brands include Denon and Marantz.

Other device partners for Imax Enhanced include Arcam, Elite, Integra, Lexicon, Onkyo, Pioneer, TCL and Trinnov, with products expected to go on sale in select regions beginning in 2019.

FanangoNow was one of the first digital retailers to offer 4K content — back in 2014, when the service was called M-Go, a joint venture of DreamWorks Animation and Technicolor, before Fandango acquired M-Go in 2016. Today, FandangoNow claims to be the leading retailer of 4K movies, with more than 20% of transactions for 4K versions when that format is available.

FandangoNow offers more than 80,000 new-release and catalog movies and TV shows for rent or purchase, including almost 1,000 titles in 4K. The service competes with the likes of Apple’s iTunes, Amazon Video, Google Play and Walmart’s Vudu.

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