Imax execs downplay importance of screen size

Wed May 20, 2009 8:18am EDT
 
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By Carl DiOrio

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Imax executives sought Tuesday to wow the media at a company presentation while also performing a bit of damage-control amid a controversy over the size of the specialty exhibitor's new digital screens.

That might sound like an awkward dance step, but corporate twists and turns are nothing new for Imax veterans.

Long known as a "giant-screen exhibitor" thanks to a circuit of movie screens as tall as 76 feet, the Toronto-based company is maneuvering into digital projection by rolling out hundreds of new venues. The move is connected to Imax's other recent strategy of regularly programing its auditoriums with commercial movies like last summer's "The Dark Knight" and current hit "Star Trek."

Most of Imax's original venues were based in museums, and for years the exhibitor showed mostly nature and space films. "Most of the films were bears, whales and seals," Imax co-CEO Rich Gelfond recalled.

The transition into Hollywood-oriented digital cinema has been good for Imax shares, which have steadily risen during the past six months. The stock dipped 3 cents to close at $7.03 on Tuesday.

But investors were jarred briefly when actor Aziz Ansari of NBC's "Parks and Recreation" complained in a Twitter-fueled blast that he felt duped into thinking he would be seeing "Star Trek" on a giant screen, only to discover its digital screens were close to conventional size. Ansari noted he paid a $5 premium to see the sci-fi action film in an Imax auditorium.

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Imax officials dealt with the matter by labeling it an old issue that hadn't kicked up a fuss until now. The average Imax screen size has been just slightly bigger than conventional screens for about six years, ever since the company began offering less expensive Imax-format systems for easier implementation in multiplexes, they noted.   Continued...

 
<p>Cinema goers watch a preview for a movie about space exploration at the new IMAX theatre in Glasgow October 10, 2000. REUTERS/Jeff J Mitchell UK</p>