IMAX with laser will bring a major visual upgrade to theaters starting this year

In recent years, there have been so many technological steps forward in the home theater realm — 4K, HDR, and object-based surround sound, to name a few — that it’s easy to forget about what’s happening in the world of actual theaters. IMAX is looking to change that with the introduction of IMAX with laser, which it says is its biggest development since it began using digital projectors a decade ago.

Using IMAX’s 4K laser system, IMAX with laser is confirmed to be coming to theaters owned by AMC and Cineworld Group/Regal, which have signed separate agreements. This will see IMAX with laser introduced in 142 theaters across the United States and Europe. These installations will start this year and will continue to roll out through 2022.

IMAX with laser offers deeper blacks, more vivid colors, and an overall sharper picture than traditional theaters or even standard IMAX. It goes beyond the image as well, with upgraded 12-channel audio, complete with overhead speakers, for a more immersive experience.

“There is no doubt in my mind that IMAX with laser provides the best blockbuster moviegoing experience and will be our leading premium offering,” Cineworld Group PLC CEO Mooky Greidinger said in a statement. “IMAX and our collective organization have worked together for more than 20 years and we both understand how to create best-in-class customer experiences. For us, this agreement is about continuing that legacy and introducing a new era of IMAX moviegoing.”

While this is a major step forward, it’s also somewhat of a defensive move. In 2014, Dolby introduced Dolby Cinema, a laser projection system that aimed to be a direct competitor to IMAX. We got to experience this system firsthand with a viewing of Star Wars: The Force Awakens at the company’s San Francisco headquarters, and we walked away impressed. By introducing its own laser projection, IMAX is better prepared to defend its territory.

IMAX also has a trick up its sleeve thanks to what it calls its “blockbuster film strategy.” In a nutshell, IMAX aims to become the go-to partner in the film industry for big-budget movies. As an example, Avengers: Infinity War, which premieres this week, was shot entirely on IMAX cameras. Viewers seeing the movie in IMAX theaters will see 26 percent more image than anyone seeing the movie at other theaters.

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