A History of IMAX and SONY

With all the recent hubbub about a SONY takeover of IMAX, we present a timeline outlining key developments between the two companies. 

Theaters:

  • 1985 – Loews Theaters is purchased by Tri-Star Pictures
  • 1989 – SONY subsidiary Columbia Pictures purchases Tri-Star.  As part of the deal, SONY takes control of Loews.
  • 1994 – SONY IMAX Theatre opens at Lincoln Square, New York City
  • 1995 – SONY signs three-year agreement with IMAX making it the exclusive supplier of giant screen, large format projection systems
  • 1995 – Cineplex Odeon Navy Pier Theatre opens in Chicago
  • 1996 – Tokyo IMAX Theater opens, operated by a division of SONY Music Entertainment
  • 1998 – Loews merges with Odeon Cineplex, creating Loews Cineplex Entertainment
  • 2000 – Universal CityWalk IMAX Theatre opens at Universal Studios Hollywood
  • 2000 – SONY IMAX Theatre opens at METREON, San Francisco
  • 2000 – CineStar Berlin IMAX 3D in SONY Center opens at Pottsdamer Platz, Berlin
  • 2002 – SONY sells its shares in Loews Cineplex to private investment firms.  Most American theaters are switched to the Loews brand.  IMAX’s corporate theater division takes over management of the Navy Pier IMAX.  Tokyo IMAX Theater is shut down.

Films:

  • 1995: Across the Sea of Time (3D, Sony Classic Pictures)
  • 1995: Wings of Courage (3D, Sony Classic Pictures)
  • 1997: Thrill Ride (2D, Sony Classic Pictures)
  • 1998: Mark Twain’s America (3D, Sony Classic Pictures)
  • 1999: Cirque du Soliel: Journey of Man (3D, Sony Classic Pictures)
  • 2004: Spider-man 2 (2D DMR, Columbia Pictures)
  • 2006: Open Season (IMAX exclusive 3D DMR, Sony Pictures Animation)
  • 2007: Spider-man 3 (2D DMR, Columbia Pictures)
  • 2009: Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (3D DMR, Sony Pictures Animation)
  • 2009: This Is It (2D DMR, digital only, Columbia Pictures)
  • 2010: Resident Evil Afterlife (3D DMR, digital only, Screen Gems)
  • 2011: The Green Hornet (3D DMR, digital only, Columbia Pictures)
  • 2012: Spider-man 4 (3D DMR, Columbia Pictures)

Technology:

  • 1999: IMAX cinematographer William Reeve, along with James Cameron and Vince Pace create a 3D filming rig using SONY HDC-60 cameras.  The footage is run through an early version of IMAX’s DMR processing and compared to footage captured with IMAX 3D film cameras.
  • 2003: The first IMAX films shot with SONY digital cameras and transferred to 1570 film stock appear.  James Cameron’s Ghosts of the Abyss, produced by Walden Media and distributed by Disney, utilizes the SONY 3D-T camera, a variation of the HDC-950.  3D Entertainment’s original production Ocean Wonderland is filmed with SONY’s HDW F-900 cameras.
  • 2006: IMAX and SONY are rumored to be in discussions for SONY’s 4K SXRD projectors to be the base for IMAX’s digital projection system.  Ultimately, the contract goes to Christie for their 2K DLP projectors, manufactured in Kitchener, Ontario, an hour’s drive from IMAX’s facility in Mississauga.
  • 2008: SONY introduces a single projector, two-lens solution for projecting 3D from a 4K SONY projector. 
  • 2009: IMAX competitor Real D signs a contract with SONY for exclusive rights to the new 3D lens adaptor for polarized systems in the United States, Canada, and Europe
  • 2009: SONY enters into a $315 million agreement with IMAX client AMC Entertainment to convert all of the company’s 4,600 screens to SONY 4K projectors by 2012.
  • 2010: IMAX, SONY, and Discovery Channel announce plans for a 3D HD television network, now known by the name 3NET.
  • 2010: IMAX, SONY, and Laser Light Engines, along with other companies, found LIPA, the Laser Illuminated Projection Association, a lobbying group with the goal of easing regulatory restrictions on lasers being used as a major component of cinema projectors.
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One Response to A History of IMAX and SONY

  1. The Sony SXRD projector was originally presented as “The IMAX projector” in Sony marketing material (in the commercial theater usage section). The deal was done.

    For some reason, possibly that the projector was too expensive for the preliminary market, the arrangement ceased and the marketing material was changed.

    Given that 3D has “succeeded” and the IMAX 3D has such a clear and obvious advantage … coupled with the fact that other customers are creating their own dual projector (unsuccessful) attempts to mimic the IMAX offering … it is in IMAX’s and Sony’s mutual interest to target the next Gen SXRD as the next gen IMAX offering in order to maintain IMAX as the best of the best, allow for larger screen and possibly full “giant screen” IMAX Digital and (if combined with Laser Light Engines) a solution which is better in some but not all ways that IMAX 1570 itself !

    The buzz may be about a Sony/IMAX technology offering not a takeover, or the takeover, or the takeover that makes sense BECAUSE of the joint technology new generation offering.

    All just idle speculation of course 😉

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