Imax Corp., the pioneer of large-screen cinema, has begun testing a prototype laser-projection system, based on patents licensed from Eastman Kodak Co., that improves picture quality with brighter light.
The system, which uses two projectors and incorporates Mississauga, Ontario-based Imax’s image-enhancing technology, will allow movies to be shown on screens 120 feet wide or more. It will be available in the fourth quarter of 2013, said Greg Foster, chairman and president of filmed entertainment. The company demonstrated the prototype to studios last week, using clips including Warner Bros.’ “The Dark Knight Rises,” the final Batman movie from director Christopher Nolan.
The new system gives Hollywood studios and cinema chains another potential tool to keep moviegoers in theaters as competition mounts from large-screen televisions and Web-based options. With the additional “horsepower” provided by laser’s focused light, theaters can improve the picture quality, including in newer formats such as 3-D.
“We’re very pleased with where we are at this point, and pleased with the reaction from our key partners,” Foster said in an interview.
Nolan showed clips from “The Dark Knight Rises,” at the exhibitors’ Cinemacon trade show yesterday in Las Vegas. One-third of the movie was shot using Imax cameras, he told the audience there.
Imax licensed the patents in October, paying Rochester, New York-based Kodak $10 million upfront plus ongoing royalties and a milestone payment, a person with knowledge of the matter said then. Kodak filed for bankruptcy in January after digital camera technology surpassed the film-based photography market the company pioneered.
Imax rose 3.4 percent to $24.38 at the close in New York trading. The shares have added 33 percent this year.
Warner Bros., owned by Time Warner Inc., also showed early clips yesterday of Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” filmed at the faster rate of 48 frames per second, which makes the image clearer and easier on the eyes. The movie will be released in December with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.