An Enchanted Tale of Harry Potter, IMAX, and the Third Dimension

The following timeline has been culled from past articles and interviews, correspondence, and notes.

  • 2003: IMAX’s annual report states that they have an R&D project in place for converting 2D 35mm films into IMAX 3D.
  • June 4, 2004: “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” became the fifth film to undergo the DMR process, and only the second to open day-and-date with conventional cinema.  The film shows on GT, SR, and MPX screens.
  • Mid-2004: IMAX approached Lucasfilm with a proposal to show the last 20 minutes of “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” in IMAX 3D, telling Lucasfilm executives they had developed their own 2D to 3D conversion process.  To evaluate IMAX’s 3D conversion abilities, Lucasfilm gave IMAX a 20-minute clip of the film, asking IMAX to produce both an anamorphic and a full-screen conversion.  Multiple sources allege that IMAX showed the converted clip to Universal executives in a bid to secure “King Kong” for IMAX screens.  IMAX failed to make the Dec 6 deadline for submitting the converted clips back to Lucasfilm, and ultimately was unable to secure either the “Star Wars” film or “King Kong” for presentation in IMAX theaters.
  • Nov. 4, 2004: Larry Williams of the Hartford Courant interviewed IMAX’s Larry O’Reilly: “O’Reilly said director Peter Jackson’s remake of “King Kong,” due next year, will probably be released in IMAX. And though it has not been done yet, O’Reilly said IMAX has developed the technology to remaster a regular Hollywood movie into IMAX 3D.”
  • Feb. 5, 2005: IMAX licensed the exclusive motion picture theatrical exhibition rights to a seventeen year old patent on 3D conversion registered to inventor David Geshwind and patent attorney Anthony Handal.  According to an August 8 2006 article in The Recorder, a daily publication for legal professionals in California, “Imax Corp. was none too happy when a startup announced it had developed technology to convert 2-D movies into the 3-D format.  So Imax, which already shows 3-D movies in its giant-screen theaters, went after In-Three Inc. for patent infringement.  The twist, though, is that Imax bought the patent at issue from two inventors so it could sue In-Three.”
  • 2005: Under the guidance of Dr. Samuel Zhou, IMAX converted scenes from “Spider-man 2” and “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” The converted clips are shown to studio executives.  In September, the clips were shown for the first time to IMAX documentary filmmakers and exhibitors during the technical session at the Giant Screen Theater Association’s annual conference in Boston.  Three months later, IMAX’s Hugh Murray presented one of the Potter scenes on a video monitor during his keynote at the Stereoscopic Displays and Applications Conference in San Jose, CA.
  • Nov. 18, 2005: “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” opened in a record 72 IMAX theaters.
  • June 28, 2006: IMAX released its first converted film for public exhibition, “Superman Returns.”  Four nonsequential scenes, amounting to 17 minutes, were converted by IMAX into 3D.  DKP staff were ecstatic as they place the largest order on record for black film, needed for masking one of the eyes during the 2D segments.  Projectionists around the world were excited by the thrill of assembling 88 reels of film, much of it black, and modifying their projectors with flipping polarizers.  Audiences were thrilled with the film and it becomes the highest grossing IMAX film to date.
  • July 11, 2007: “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” opened on 143 IMAX screens.  The last 20 minutes of the film were in 3D.  For GT theaters, this meant lots of black film again.  SR theaters were able to crank up their second projector just for the added footage.
  • July 29, 2009: “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” opened in IMAX two-weeks later than its conventional cinema counterpart.  The delay allowed for a full five-week run of Paramount’s “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” which had a number of scenes filmed with IMAX cameras.  12 minutes at the start of the “Prince” were in IMAX 3D.
  • March 19, 2010: The documentary “Hubble 3D” opened on IMAX screens.  Some 35mm stock footage were put through the DMR process and then converted by IMAX to 3D.  IMAX also converts scenes from an earlier IMAX documentary, “Destiny in Space,” for inclusion in “Hubble.”
  • May 2010: IMAX is awarded contract to convert “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts 1 & 2” in their entirety to 3D.  For the first time, an IMAX converted film was scheduled to play on systems provided by IMAX’s competitors.
  • August 2010: With only four months to go, IMAX was finally given footage to convert for Part 1 of “Deathly Hallows.”
  • October 8, 2010: Consensus over the past few months from those who have seen the converted footage was that it was high quality.  However, it was taking longer than expected to complete the conversion and IMAX was finding it difficult to farm work out to other houses.  Warner Brothers, for the first time since “Happy Feet” in 2006, announced that one of their tentpole films would not be released in 3D.
  • Nov. 19, 2010: “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1” opend in a record 356 IMAX theaters, most of them digital.  The entire film is 2D.
  • Work continues by IMAX on converting “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” into 3D, with a projected opening of July 15, 2011.
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