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Author Topic: The IMAX alternative?
Elena N. Solovyova
Film Handler

Posts: 44
From: Voronezh, Russia
Registered: Feb 2003


 - posted 03-04-2003 10:41 AM      Profile for Elena N. Solovyova   Email Elena N. Solovyova   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
There is a local company promoting the Megasystem, Inc solutions as an "affordable" alernative to IMAX. Today, the number of IMAX installations in Russia is zero (though two expected to be opened next fall in Moscow), and the Megasystem' own "8/70/35" is promoted as "no royalty fees" giant-screen solution.

I suspect that the truth is not worth the promotional fare. Up to date, no installations in Russia was signed at all.

Any thought on this?

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Mark Gulbrandsen
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Posts: 16221
From: Bountiful, Utah
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 03-04-2003 02:01 PM      Profile for Mark Gulbrandsen   Email Mark Gulbrandsen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Elena,
There are much better alternatives to that brand. The Ballantyne 8/70 a better alternative to the double movement machine which is laden with way too MANY belts, and the Iwerks Linear Loop 8/70 also comes to and is far more light efficient than either the Mega or Ballantyne projector. Both are extrmemely easy on film. The use of the double intermittent system is not needed with 8 perf pull down.

There are many Ballantyne 8/70 projectors available on the used market as well. For the 8/70 format you don't need the services of anyone special except a competant cinema dealer, although Iwerks and Mega, if they are still around and in buisness, may lead you to believe that you do. You will generally find though that most 15/70 theatres do at least twice to three times the ticket sales of similar 8/70 theatre situations.
Mark

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Larry Shaw
Expert Film Handler

Posts: 238
From: Boston, MA, USA
Registered: Mar 2000


 - posted 03-08-2003 06:59 PM      Profile for Larry Shaw   Author's Homepage   Email Larry Shaw   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Elena,

Kinoton also makes 870, 1070 and 870/570/435 machines, as well as a complete large screen system called "Gigavision". See http://www.kinoton.com/spezialprojektoren.htm .

870 is a much, much cheaper way to show large format films. Recently either FJI or boxoffice had an article about Crown Theatres replacing 1570 with 870 in 2 of their locations. They seemed quite happy with the results.

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Mark Gulbrandsen
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From: Bountiful, Utah
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 - posted 03-08-2003 10:32 PM      Profile for Mark Gulbrandsen   Email Mark Gulbrandsen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Larry,
My main complaint about 8/70 is that most, if not all, sites that I've been to have screens that are way larger than the 8/70 system is really capable of adaquately lighting up. 8/70 sure has its place but print cost is really about the same....contact 15/70 done at reasonably high speeds vs. optical reduction from 15/70 to 8/70 on a slow step printer. 8/70 can utilize a 10kw lamp vs 15/70's 15kw(if needed). A bit of cost difference there but not really that much either. More support equipment to run 15/70, requiring a bit more maintainance is about all that really comes to mind. Each system is VERY gentle on film....but the 15/70 projected image is unsurpassed!! Also, any other system other than what Crown had in there would be a drastic improvement.....
Mark

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Bill Killough
Film Handler

Posts: 4
From: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Registered: Jun 2002


 - posted 03-10-2003 11:17 AM      Profile for Bill Killough   Email Bill Killough   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
There is an IMAX theatre opening up i Moscow this April. I'm going over near the end of March (from Toronto) to help with initial start-up and to train their staff on the SR system there.

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Larry Shaw
Expert Film Handler

Posts: 238
From: Boston, MA, USA
Registered: Mar 2000


 - posted 03-10-2003 04:59 PM      Profile for Larry Shaw   Author's Homepage   Email Larry Shaw   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Mark,

I'm told the problem with 15/70, which almost always means IMAX, is the cost of the equipment lease/percentage/mandatory service etc. One theatre owner told me his annual IMAX service contract cost nearly as much as purchasing our complete machine. As far as image quality and brightness, I agree that 15/70 is probably more stable and possibly brighter, but is it worth spending $1 million+(?)with lots of restrictions vs. $80,000 outright?

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Adam Martin
I'm not even gonna point out the irony.

Posts: 3661
From: Dallas, TX
Registered: Nov 2000


 - posted 03-10-2003 05:27 PM      Profile for Adam Martin   Author's Homepage   Email Adam Martin       Edit/Delete Post 
I've mentioned this before, but if you're looking for an extensive educational film library, you're not gonna get it unless you have an Imax-branded projection system. Imax film distribution will not lease you a print unless it is going to run on an Imax system.

If all you're looking to do is show 35mm films on your "giant screen", then by all means put something else in.

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Steve Kraus
Film God

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From: Chicago, IL, USA
Registered: May 2000


 - posted 03-10-2003 06:47 PM      Profile for Steve Kraus     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I guess the thing to do would be to check the history of theatres with non-IMAX 15/70 machines and see what they played and what they missed out on. If most of the high profile films were available to them then maybe a non-IMAX 15/70 is the way to go in that market.

Mark, what is your opinion of the 8-perf Norelco AA-II our mutual friend has?

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Mark Gulbrandsen
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From: Bountiful, Utah
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 - posted 03-10-2003 06:51 PM      Profile for Mark Gulbrandsen   Email Mark Gulbrandsen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Larry,
I agree that 8/70 is very low maintainance and has far less cost, however there is a very good alternative for 15/70 that can be purchased outright and that is the stuff from CDC. I know many Imax die hards are thinking to themselves....yea right. But they are indeed sorely wrong! These systems, although considerably more expensive than 8/70, also yield the same Imax like results that people paying big ticket prices expect to get. They do not require the big ticket maintainance contracts either, but I would certainly reccommend one for the rolling loop machines and platter systems. A competant service tech can take care of the rest of the system, including lamohouses, and rectifiers, support system, and sound system. The cost for a service contract from CDC is way less than anything from Imax. And you own the equipment, no percentages, or lease to pay and eat up all the profits.

While I can't quote the exact price of a CDC 2D or 3D system off the top of my head, it is way way under a million dollars for a 2D - 7kw system. When one considers that the building to house a large format screen, if properly constructed, will set you back at least a million alone, then a 15/70 system bought outright makes good sense.

Contrary to beliefs by Imax fans there is also enough software to run on them....the same software that is available for all the 8/70 theatres, and several of the locations are running film made for their particuluar location anyway. The main thing on the software availability issue is that Disney was smart enough to give Imax the finger when it came to booking their software. They're not stupid....look at the locations that CDC, and Iwerks has. Huge markets lay there!! Many other producers have also obviously felt the same way as they too make their software available to all large format theatres as Disney does. Aside from Everest, and a couple of the outer space films the Imax library is pretty lame overall anyway, and has been run to death.

The link to CDC's web site is http://www.cinemadevelopmentcompany.com/home1.shtml

Mark @ CLACO

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Mark Gulbrandsen
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From: Bountiful, Utah
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 - posted 03-10-2003 07:07 PM      Profile for Mark Gulbrandsen   Email Mark Gulbrandsen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Steve,
I've never seen it run! No reason it shouldn't though....8/70 is not a very demanding format on a projector. Go to 10/70 and thats another story though. Running 8/70 on a DP-70 at 24 fps is about equivelent to running 5/70 at 30 fps. It does that easily!
Mark

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Gordon McLeod
Film God

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From: Toronto Ontario Canada
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 03-10-2003 10:09 PM      Profile for Gordon McLeod   Email Gordon McLeod   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Everest is not leased through Imax but Macgillvary freeman films and is available to all
The weak link is the space films and the majoraty of the 3d stuff is IMAX only

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Adam Martin
I'm not even gonna point out the irony.

Posts: 3661
From: Dallas, TX
Registered: Nov 2000


 - posted 03-10-2003 11:39 PM      Profile for Adam Martin   Author's Homepage   Email Adam Martin       Edit/Delete Post 
I'm looking at a list of 260 15/70 films made as of 2001. Here are the top 10 distributors from this list:

Imax - 57 films
MacGillivray-Freeman - 40 films
Destination Cinema - 15 films
Minnesota Science Museum - 9 films
nWave - 8 films
Primesco - 6 films
Motion International - 6 films
Buena Vista - 5 films
Houston Museum - 5 films
Sony - 5 films

I would guess that about 30% of the whole list are out of distribution. It's probably more than that.

What I'm saying is that anyone contemplating installing a large format theater needs to determine the market they are going for. You need to put aside all the smoke the marketing gimps are blowing up your ass and come up with a business plan and figure out how you're going to execute that plan.

If you're going for the educational market, do you really want to cut off 25% of available "software"? Sure, you could get by with Mac-Free's library, but what curriculums are covered by that library? Let's see ... water, water, history, water, mountains, water, flight, water, flight, weather, water.

If you're going for the general entertainment market and intend to completely ignore the educational aspect, you're probably barking up the wrong tree. Stay out of the large format business. There's no money in it outside of the school groups, theme park attractions and destination locations with a pre-defined and built-in audience. This is what got all of the multiplex-based Imax theaters in trouble. They did not properly execute their business plan -- they went in with the attitude, "it's Imax ... they'll just flock to us, and we won't have to lift a finger".

I've been involved with several large format theaters. One is a highly successful theater at an extremely progressive educational institution; one is a highly successful multiplex-based theater with an extremely aggressive (although sometimes poorly executed) educational program; one is a multiplex-based theater that failed miserably at their educational program and got rid of the theater manager and marketing director; and one is a standalone commercial theater that is barely keeping it's head above water because they're trying to market the theater to mainstream audiences rather than educational audiences. (The two unsuccessful theaters would have been better suited with 8/70 equipment.)

To say that Imax is pure evil is like saying Cadillac is bad because they manufacture an oversized, gas-guzzling monstrosity. Sometimes the problem is the idiot (who needs to re-take the driving test) who bought the truck because it looked cool in the commercial and has leather seats with butt-warmers standard.

Imax has a business plan that is keeping it in business. Large format theaters should do the same, regardless of the system they install. Do you build a 20-plex in a town of 20,000 knowing that you have to split product with a competitor? Only if you're AMC.

Sorry for the long post. If you like, just read the italicized part above.

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Mark Gulbrandsen
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From: Bountiful, Utah
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 - posted 03-11-2003 12:17 AM      Profile for Mark Gulbrandsen   Email Mark Gulbrandsen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Adam,
I totally agree with your italicised part in the above post. These types of theattres are only going to make any $$ in those sort of situations. And yes, all the large format companys seem to have a buisness plan, however It appears to many that Imax's latest plan is degrading even to itself! The film eater SR's, and platter systems were only the beginning......of the end. They should ahve kept in there with the highest quality systems. I know of several Edwards locations that chewed up so much film as to never make a dime.
Mark

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Adam Martin
I'm not even gonna point out the irony.

Posts: 3661
From: Dallas, TX
Registered: Nov 2000


 - posted 03-11-2003 02:11 AM      Profile for Adam Martin   Author's Homepage   Email Adam Martin       Edit/Delete Post 
I have never had an SR system chew up film where my own stupidity was not involved. They are only slightly less gentle on film because of the smaller rotor and the curvature of the aperture block. In my experience with several systems, they are just as reliable as the GTs and have a much, much smarter PLC. The GT does, however, produce a much nicer image on screen; plus, you can climb into it to work on it. [Smile]

 -

The QTRU is significantly gentler on film because you don't have the wear of rewinding, although I do question the quality of some of the recent "upgrades" for the longer films. I have run long films on both the QTRU and the MK-II and, by far, prefer the MK-II upgrade over the 150-minute arms on the other reel unit. But then you spend 45 minutes rewinding the silly thing.

I simply don't know what the hell they're thinking with this MPX system that was formally announced last week.

I haven't had the opportunity to use any non-Imax systems, but I have heard horror stories about some of them. I hope to get some hands-on experience with some of them one of these days.

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Mark Gulbrandsen
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From: Bountiful, Utah
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 - posted 03-11-2003 09:10 AM      Profile for Mark Gulbrandsen   Email Mark Gulbrandsen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
The Zion Canyon theatre ran its print of Zion Canyon for close to 3000 passes. It was then cleaned and photogarded and run for another 2500 passes till it began to turn red. It was then replaced with a slightly used print from Gords threatre I believe. That print is still running today. I saw a section of that old print which is now used for a test film and it was scratch free but a bit red. Thats pretty good print life for a non-Imax 15/70 system if you ask me.

I agree that alot of the problems are operator error and that the QTRU should be easier on film...but its apparently more difficult to operate for the average theatre chain.....especially in Edwards case. While I'm not privy to all the details Imax sure didn't offer those mpx theatres a very solid buisness plan, tailored to them that would work. Cineplex also recently did not renew its lease at Navy Pier siting the rediclously high Imax expense.

At huge volum places like museums and theme parks these theatres work well and rarely fail weather they are Imax or another brand...but one theatre recently left a theme park after many many years in Ohio...that was also Imax. Gotta wonder what really made them close it on that one......and replace it with a ride? Probably that insideous Imax cost.

IMHO, if Imax wants to survive they should use all high quality equipment at every location, hold to certain standards, and above all do a local study and tailor a buisness plan to each location that is meaningful and profitable for both parties...not just for Imax.
Mark

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