Wednesday, March 10, 2010

AMC takes on IMAX with its own big-screen system

AMC Entertainment has deployed an in-house-developed IMAX competitor called ETX (Enhanced Theater Experience) in theaters in Toronto, Ontario, Canada amd Orlando, Florida, and is planning to install it in more of its theaters. ETX features a 20% larger screen, digital projection, 3D-compatibility and 12-channel sound.

The problem with IMAX in conventional movie theaters is that it in no way provides the floor to ceiling enveloping experience of true, purpose-built IMAX theaters. Frankly, it's not much better than conventional, high-quality digital projection in a well-maintained theater.

Motion picture exhibitors have been able to charge considerably more for tickets in their IMAX-converted theaters. However, they have significant upfront costs for the IMAX equipment, and then they're required to pay royalties to IMAX for use of its system. AMC believes that it can offer a comparable moviegoing experience without purchasing or licensing the IMAX equipment and (one hopes) without infringing on IMAX's patents. In fact, Cinemark is deploying its own big-screen system, but it and IMAX have already sued each other. Lower costs will put more money into the pockets of the exhibitors (but don't expect ticket prices to go down.)

Most of IMAX's growth has come from retrofitting of conventional movie theaters, and a move by its customers to in-house systems could slow that growth or even bring it to a halt.
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