IMAX roars into the multiplex

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IMAX roars into the multiplex

Some 10 years after multiplex chain theaters with bigger seats and screens were first introduced here, movie theaters are again seeking to upgrade their services. This time its with super-sized screens and 3-D films.
The nation’s major multiplex chain CJ CGV is the first to upgrade by introducing new IMAX theaters in Yongsan and Incheon. The first feature shown on the ginormous screens is “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: The IMAX Experience” which opened concurrent with the conventional version last week.
IMAX theaters such as the one in the 63 Building in Yeoido are generally known here for showing only documentaries. But CJ CGV officials say its multiplexes will now be showing many Hollywood’s blockbusters on IMAX widescreens that are approximately twice the size of conventional theater screens.
IMAX’s new digital re-mastering technology makes it possible for 35 mm films to be transformed into the IMAX format, said Park Dong-ho, president of CJ CGV last week at a CGV-IMAX sample screening.
Larry O’Reilly, the IMAX executive vice president of theater development, explained that when the film goes through the digital re-mastering process, the picture quality becomes 10 times better than the original version because when each frame is blown up to the IMAX format (15 perforation, 70 mm film), the grains are digitally removed, edges sharpened and the color contrast is readjusted.
In a special press screening of “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: The IMAX Experience” the quality was clearly better.
The widescreen is tilted five degrees toward the audience to maximize each scene’s “reality,” so when Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) took part in the Triwizard tournament, the flying scene was almost overwhelming as the screen seemed to pull viewers into it, while the underwater scene gave that similar twitch of excitement you would feel watching a 3D film despite this being a mere 2D rendering.
However, several well-known 3D IMAX films (which require the audience to wear 3D glasses) will be introduced in Korea from early next year.
The 3D adventures “T-Rex,” “Into the Deep,” “Space Station,” “NASCAR” and “Nutcracker” are a few that have already been produced by IMAX and Warner Bros. Pictures, while upcoming 3D films for 2006 include the animated movies “The Ant Bully” and “Happy Feet.”
By 2007, CJ CGV is planning to open six more IMAX theaters in Ilsan, Wangsimni, Daegu and Gwangju, said a CGV official.
The digitally re-mastered IMAX “Harry Potter” costs 10,000 won ($10) to see. Upcoming 3D films will be 14,000 won. Movie prices in Korea are usually around 8,000 won.
Because there is currently only one IMAX screen in each CGV theater, the company plans to rotate two to three different films per day for each IMAX screen.
While many are excited by the thought of experiencing this enhanced cinematic technology, some have expressed concern as to whether CJ CGV will acquire enough IMAX films to show regularly. The process of re-mastering each film into an IMAX format takes about two months and costs more than 2 billion won ($2 million).
Some people even sounded a warning note. “If they can’t show specially designated films for the IMAX format, the new theaters will just be used for showing regular, conventional films,” said a film business executive. “Those films will look very funny because they won’t be able to fill up the wider screens.”

by Lee Min-a
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