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Coming soon to a theatre near you

By Sudhish Kamath



Richard L. Gelfond

CHENNAI, DEC. 8. Chennai may soon have its own IMAX theatre, which makes the viewer believe he is part of the on-screen action.

IMAX screens can be eight storeys tall and as big as a football field, but the experience can also be provided on slightly smaller screens. Currently, only Hyderabad's Prasad Group and Mumbai's AdLabs Dome have IMAX theatres.

The director of the Prasad Group, A. Ramesh Prasad, said the Canadian company (IMAX) had recently tied up with Sathyam Cinemas, Chennai. Sathyam officials refused to comment, and a senior official of IMAX said the company does not talk about "deals in progress."

Target cities

A fortnight ago, the Sathyam top management said it had big plans for the New Year. However, a presentation made at a press conference two days ago during the IMAX co-chairman's visit to Hyderabad, did not list Chennai or Bangalore in its list of target markets of 10 cities — Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Pune, Surat, Kanpur, Lucknow, Nagpur, Patna and Indore.

"We have plans to set up IMAX theatres in these cities in the next three or four years," Mr. Richard Gelfond, co-chairman of IMAX said. "We are looking at India as the second largest market in the world after America for IMAX DMR [Digital Re-mastering]. But for us to start transforming Bollywood films into the IMAX format, we need the market to have at least 25 theatres to recover the cost of investment. This will take about three or four years."

Highest grossers

The Indian IMAX theatres are among the highest grossers in the world.

The highest box-office collections in the world for Spiderman 2 in its re-mastered release came from Prasads, despite tickets being priced at Rs. 180 ($4), compared to $11 in America and $18 in Japan. "The IMAX pricing is lowest in India and yet the collections here have been among the best," Mr. Gelfond said.

The Hyderabad theatre, unlike Mumbai's Dome, allows IMAX 3D viewing and is all set for the release of "The Polar Express," the first full length Hollywood feature film ever converted into IMAX 3D.

"The film cannot be viewed on 3D at the Dome in Mumbai because the screen needs to be flat," an official explained.

The film will also open in Chennai at Sathyam around Christmas, but without the IMAX and 3D experience.

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