Imax to Introduce Laser Projectors With ‘The Hobbit’

Imax Corp., the pioneer of large-screen cinema, plans to use the next “Hobbit” installment in December to introduce a laser projection system based on technology licensed from Eastman Kodak Co. in 2011.

The projectors will used with the release of “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,” on Dec. 17, according to Chief Executive Officer Rich Gelfond. The Warner Bros. film, directed by Peter Jackson, will be shown in one or two theaters with the new system, as well as the entire Imax circuit. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. shares rights to the film.

The upgrade burnishes Imax’s reputation as an innovator and lets the company offer filmmakers such as Jackson, the director of the “Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings” movies, new technology to showcase their films. Laser projection delivers a brighter picture and greater resolution than current digital projection, Gelfond said.

“The images with laser projection are spectacular,” Gelfond said. “They are brighter, and will eventually be as good as film -- maybe better in some respects.”

Some directors have rejected the shift to digital that theaters have undertaken over recent years, citing artistic and economic reasons.

At a press conference at the Cannes Film Festival this year, Quentin Tarantino, the director of “Pulp Fiction” and “Reservoir Dogs,” described advent of digital technology as the “death of cinema.”

Artistic Concern

Tarantino and Christopher Nolan, who directed the “Dark Knight” series and is releasing “Interstellar” in November, insist on shooting their movies with film.

Some studios and filmmakers negotiated a deal earlier this year to keep Kodak making film, a business the company no longer saw as economical as demand for the product faded with the rise of digital.

Imax, based in Mississauga, Ontario, has invested $50 million in the technology, Gelfond said. Imax agreed in 2011 to pay more than $10 million to Kodak, plus royalties and a milestone payment, people with knowledge of the matter said at the time.

Imax has sold more than 65 laser systems to theaters, Greg Foster, CEO of the Imax Entertainment unit, said at a Bank of America conference in September.

Imax rose 0.8 percent to $27 at 11:36 a.m. in New York. The shares had fallen 9.2 percent this year through yesterday.

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