Tag Archives: IMAX

Daily Cinema Digest – Wednesday 23 April 2014


Is China undergoing a 3D backlash? Speakers at the recent Beijing International Film Festival seemed to go to great lengths to condemn poor 3D.

Prominent members of industry like Yang Buting, chairman of China Film Distribution and Exhibition Association and China Film Overseas Promotional Corporation, lined up to have a go at the format. Director Paul Andersson (Resident Evil and many other 3D films) said that there were too many bad 3D films and exhibitors over-charging (see next item), which could lead China to follow the US lead of audiences switching back to 2D.

Take the numbers with a pinch of salt, however, as the most recent screen count in China is 20,007, which makes the first figure quoted nonsensical.

More than 20,000 movie screens in China can play 3D films and more companies are competing to sell their 3D projection equipment, which used to cost between 80,000 yuan and 150,000 yuan. Now equipment is no more than 20,000 yuan, said Yang.

“This kind of vicious competition has lowered the quality and cost of 3D films, thus upsetting viewers,” he said.

Paul Anderson told Xinhua that it is better to give audiences a choice.

“If you don’t give them a choice and you deliver bad 3D products, eventually they will stop going to the cinema. American people are choosing to watch 2D rather than 3D films,” he said.  LINK

It is worth remembering that films like RoboCop and Transcendence were released in 3D only in China, to qualify for the 20+14 foreign film import quota, while Noah was released in 3D everywhere around the world (except in muslim countries that banned it in 2D and 3D) except in the US.

red-blue 3D glasses

Not the glasses sold in cinemas

Chinese cinemas are also coming under scrutiny by city councils for the practice of charging a premium for tickets to 3D films, as well as requiring patrons to spend extra to buy 3D glasses.

Miss Xiao told reporters the she recently went to a South City theater to watch a 3D movie. After buying the tickets, she was told she would be required to purchase 3D glasses sold by the cinema or she would not be able to watch the 3D movies. “At the time, I felt very angry, but I did not want to think about spending more money to buy more than the ticket to affect my mood, so I spent more than ten yuan to buy 3D glasses trouble.” Consumers such as Miss Lee, Mr. Jin is one of many who suffered such things. City Council said yesterday, after investigating  theatres in Dongguan, that this situation does exist.  LINK

The City Council is threatening cinemas with actions for violating Article 26 of the “Consumer Protection Law” and urges them to “consciously safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of consumers.” Seems like there is trouble brewing here on multiple fronts.

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China’s Multiplexes Are Headed For a Crash – Statistics Show Why

Z Storm

Just 15%. Remember that figure as you listen to Hollywood representatives and trade press falling over themselves to laud the growth of Chinese cinemas.

At this year’s CinemaCon MPAA’s Chris Dodd marvelled at China’s USD $3.6 billion box office in 2013, representing a year-on-year growth of 27.5%, saying that “with China building 13 new screens every day more growth is coming.” The Hollywood Reporter breathlessly reported last week that  Chinese box office “first quarter revenues for 2014 have already exceeded the country’s full-year total for 2009,” and that it could surpass USD $4 billion for the whole year.

The opening of screens has also accelerated since Dodd quoted the 13 screens per day figure last month. “In the first quarter, there were 325 movie theaters built, for a total of 1,609 screens, which means an average of 18 new screens went up per day,” says THR. Thus, China presently has 20,007 cinema screens compared to the 40,000+ in North America.

There is just one problem with all this exuberance; if the rate of cinema openings outpaces Chinese box office growth, then it is not a boom but a bubble. Because we’ve been here before and it did not end well.

Gravity Defying No More?

Any news and analysis about China has taken place against the wider economic landscape of the mainland. Last week Reuters reported that ‘China economic growth slows to 18-month low in first-quarter‘ as China’s new leaders reign in credit and rule out major stimulus “to fight short-term dips in growth.” It is noted that “even three or fours years ago, growth of less than 8 per cent would have alarmed Chinese officials,” who have been used to double digit figures, but in January-March the economy grew just 7.4%. The housing market in particular was a source of worry. Keep that in mind.

Of course, there were plenty of pundits saying, “this time/one is different.” Yu Yongding, former President of the China Society of World Economics, wrote in the article ‘Fears of a Chinese crash are unfounded‘ that “the market is always in search of a story, and investors, it seems think they have found a new one this year in China,” noting that dire predictions about China’s economy have “abounded for the past 30 years.” He admits that “China’s real-estate price bubble is often named as a likely catalyst for a crisis,” but tries to assuage fears by pointing out that China does not have sub-prime mortgages.

Whether China’s economy as a whole is headed for a crash/slowdown/correction is beyond the scope of this article. But it should be noted that the property market is identified even by defenders of the economy as the weak point. Commercial real estate is more exposed than private housing and multiplexes balance most precariously on top of the countless, recently constructed, shopping malls.

But surely the Chinese middle class’ insatiable appetite for domestic hits, Hollywood blockbusters in 3D, giant Imax screens and popcorn ‘dyed in all colors of the rainbow’ and ‘coated with sticky sweet syrup’ (thanks Joel) will keep cinemas going? Statistics say ‘no’. Here is why.

The Worrying Piece of Data – 15%

While you wouldn’t pick up the worry about a Chinese cinema sector bubble from western media and trade press, the issue is debated fairly openly in the Mainland’s Chinese-language press. In an article originally titled ‘Perspective Hidden Behind the 20,000 Screens‘ [a reference to the total Chinese screen count] on CE.cn (source: Beijing Daily) author Lu Yang quotes:

“From the status of the overall development of the market, the growth rate of the domestic box office this stage and movie theater attendance is nowhere near the speed of construction, an increase of the ratio between the two is in an unbalanced state, which means that the national theater attendance is actually not ideal. “critic Liu Chang says.

Cultural Industry Research Institute of Peking University, the Beijing Daily reporter Chen Shaofeng pointed out, “statistics show that the average attendance was only 15% of the national theater. Oversupply in the market [means] the theater’s income will be diluted further. “

These are shocking and worrying admissions that should set alarm bells ringing. The 15% occupancy rate might be the norm for western multiplexes, but just like China needs a growth rate of above 7.5% to 8%, so too it cannot sustain its cinema sector with what passes for normal in the US and Europe. Consider the fact that IHS stated last year that in the UK “The average cinema has an occupancy rate of 20-25 per cent across the week.” So Chinese occupancy rate is way below a mature market like the UK that has gone through extensive consolidation.

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Daily Cinema Digest – Tuesday 22 April 2014 (post-Easter Bumper Issue)

ABC Brussels cinema

Belgium: Save the Brussels ABC! One of the last 35mm adult film cinemas in the world closed last year when the ABC in Brussels shut its doors.  There is now a campaign to save it and turn it into an art-house cinema with exotic flare.  You can donate by PayPal. The campaign is 47% towards its target.

For over 40 years the ABC cinema screened adult films from 35mm – one of the last such cinemas not to have converted to digital – but in 2013 it shut its doors for the final time.

Earlier this year, a group from three of Belgium’s leading film and heritage organisations – independent cinema and archive Cinema Nova, festival organiser and programmer Offscreen/vzw Marcel and movie theatre heritage specialist La re?tine de Plateau – devised an ambitious plan to rescue the ABC for a life after porn.

Drawing on their experience, they believe that the ABC is the perfect size for repertory screenings and intimate-scale live events, and so they created the CINEACT Foundation, to raise €60,000 (approximately £50,000 / $83,000) to take out a year-long lease on the ABC.  LINK

Palace Theatre Orpheum Los Angeles

USA (CA): A great example of how to bring back a cinema from the dead and make it relevant for a new age and neighbourhood is provided by the former Orpheum (what an appropriate name) in Downtown Los Angeles, first opened in 1927 but in decline for a long time.

It stopped showing films 25 years ago, and then became the base for notorious television evangelist Gene Scott, who passed away in 2005. The entire building was sold in 2011 and earlier this year opened as the newest branch of the Ace Hotel. The upstairs offices were converted into bedrooms and the elaborate cinema at the core of the building was reopened with a Valentine’s Day show from Spiritualized.

As well as music, bringing movies back to the cinema was core to the brand’s rejuvenation of the building. The Ace got in touch with Cinespia, the Los Angeles-based classic movie screening organisation, to help. Cinespia founder John Wyatt had previously hosted one-off shows in the Downtown cinemas he calls “vintage jewels”, including La Dolce Vita at the ornate Los Angeles Theatre and Blade Runner at the Million Dollar Theatre, situated across from the Bradbury Building, which is featured heavily in the film. “I got really excited, one, because nobody was going to turn the building into loft apartments and two, because they were an interesting brand who might want to take some risks,” explains Wyatt.  LINK

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Daily Cinema Digest – Monday 14 April 2014


The Wrap takes a look at the growth of ’4D’ offered by the likes of D-Box, CJ 4DPlex and MediaMation and whether there is a business case for it. Not if it shakes the popcorn out of the tub, it seems.

Indeed, some theater owners have experimented with the technology, only to decide that it is best served up in small doses. Rolando Rodriguez, president and CEO of Marcus Theaters, installed 30 motion seats in one of his fifty theaters. While the seats are popular features when paired with big-budget blockbusters, he has decided not to invest in the technology. The $8 surcharge the 4D seats carry limits their appeal, he said.

“We’re investing in other amenities that play better with our customers,” Rodriguez said. “We’re pleased with the performance, but from our perspective, investing in things like large screen theaters and in-theater dining is more important.”

But other exhibitors and manufacturers counter that this is more than just a novelty act.

“We’re finding that people turn into aficionados,” Michel Paquette, vice-president of marketing of the 4D manufacturer D-Box Technologies, said. “Once people try it, if they like it, they usually get hooked.”

Likewise, Heath Thomas regional manager of the Goodrich Quality Theaters, has placed 4D seats in 16 locations and reports they are a big hit with audiences between the ages of 18 to 30.  LINK

 Odeon logo

UK: UK/European cinema major Odeon-UCI saw its revenue and profit drop sharply in the past year, dragged down by the lack of a Skyfall-size hit and by its Spanish arm.

Odeon’s earnings before interest, tax and other charges dropped by 24 per cent to £69.2m while sales fell five per cent to £706.7m.

In Spain, where Odeon operates 43 cinemas, Odeon’s market volume fell 15 per cent last year.

“In 2014, there are some early signs that the economy may be turning: unemployment has started to fall slightly and retail sales have started to grow,” Odeon said, adding that it has now grown its Spanish market share to 21 per cent.  LINK

Odeon’s results do not include its property arm.

NCR logo

USA: Marcus Theatre is deploying the full range of services offered by NCR Cinema software.

NCR Corporation (NYSE: NCR), the global leader in consumer transaction technologies, today announced that Marcus Theatres®, a division of The Marcus Corporation (NYSE:MCS), has now deployed NCR’s full suite of cinema and restaurant solutions to improve its business operations and enhance its customers’ movie experience. Marcus Theatres has been a long-time customer, using NCR’s mobile and fixed point-of-sale (POS) systems, indoor kiosks, takeout and delivery software and NCR MovieTime mobile application.  LINK

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Daily Cinema Digest – Wednesday 9 April 2014

ArcLight Santa monica

Normally we bury cinema openings further down in the Daily, but this merits top billing.

Back in January we wrote about how premium cinema operator ArcLight had set its sights on Los Angeles’ Santa Monica market and whether this would create a screen glut.

Now news reaches us that ArcLight is already planning a second multiplex in downtown Santa Monica, which would include an Imax screen.

ArcLight Cinemas is in negotiations with City Hall to put a theater on the land where Parking Structure 3 currently stands — on Fourth Street at Arizona Avenue, said Andy Agle, director of Housing and Economic Development.

A preliminary agreement that would allow ArcLight to start drawing up official plans could go before City Council later this month.

At that same meeting, council will consider final approval of another ArcLight theater proposed for the third level of the Santa Monica Place mall. Those plans have been in the works since last year. The Santa Monica Place theater could include up to 13 screens and 1,500 seats.  LINK

Meanwhile other cinemas in the area, such as Laemmle, are reducing seating capacity and expanding concessions and cafe areas instead. AMC is also expected to reduce the number of seats.


Russian cinema

Russia: Rather than introducing a quota on foreign films, as had been previously mooted, it looks like Russia will instead introduce a levy this summer.

The government plans to popularize Russian films on the home market by introducing extra charges for Western movies and granting tax breaks to domestic ones may do no more than mildly handicap foreign competitors while failing to meet the industry’s underlying needs.

The suggestions, published Monday on the government website, are directed at increasing the presence of Russian films in theaters, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said at a meeting of the council on the development of national cinema in late March during which the measures were discussed.  LINK

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Daily Cinema Digest – Tuesday 8 April 2014

Imax China

Imax is to sell 20% of its China business to two Chinese-based entities in return for USD $80 million and a firmer foot hold in the world’s soon-to-be largest cinema market.

IMAX Chief Executive Richard Gelfond said in an interview that investment fund China Media Capital and private-equity firm FountainVest Partners would pay $40 million each for 10% stakes by early 2015. He said the deal gives IMAX local partners who will open up expansion opportunities in one of its most important markets.

The investors will shepherd a public offering of shares of the China operation, IMAX China Holding Inc., in the next five years, Mr. Gelfond said. IMAX China will be paying IMAX Corp. an ongoing trademark and licensing fee for the right to use the IMAX trademark in China, a spokeswoman said. IMAX China is aiming to list in Hong Kong but will be positioning itself to list on other China exchanges, such as in Shanghai, in case that doesn’t work out or a better opportunity arises on the mainland, a spokeswoman said.  LINK

Not only will this allow for expansion in China, but Imax must also be hoping to neutralise the nascent threat from CFGS - though this is not mentioned in the above article.


Barco laser projection

USA (LV): Lasers are coming! This follow-up article from David Keene provides excellent insights from the pre-NAB Cinema Summit on what is happening on the laser front.

The first shots were fired on Saturday, in the session “Laser Illuminated Projectors: What’s New and When Will They Arrive? Bill Beck, President of BTM Consulting moderated panelists Pete Ludé, CTO of Mission Rock Digital; Goran Stojmenovik , Product Manager Laser Projection, Barco; Richard McPherson of NEC Display Solutions; and Don Shaw, Senior Director of Product Management for Entertainment Solutions at Christie.

The panel was straight forward– not your typical panel involving a lot of speculation and vague talk of coming solutions. It was three major projector manufactures explaining their new Laser projectors. And surprisingly, this was not a “me too” exercise: each company is launching a very different kind of Laser projector and/or 3D solution into the market this spring.  LINK

You Will Be Amazed To Find Out What The Differences Between The Different Laser Projector Solutions Are!

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Daily Cinema Digest – Friday 4 April 2014


We have written a lot about the cinemas in Fargo, North Dakota in the Daily before (here, here, here and here), but it is an interesting microcosm of the evolution that the US exhibition industry as a whole is going through.

This article highlight changes that three of Marcus Theatres’ Fargo properties are undergoing.

Century Cinema

The current big screen at Century Cinema, located at 3931 9th Ave. S.W., has just been converted to an Ultra Screen DLX with Dolby Atmos Sound.

That auditorium and all of the other auditoriums at Century Cinema are getting new DreamLounger chairs. According to Menefee, the chairs allow for full reclining, “Just like you’d have at home.”

The size of the DreamLoungers mean each auditorium at Century Cinema will see its seating capacity drop by about 40 percent, but Menefee said the popularity of the chairs should keep auditoriums full.

So fewer seats but higher comfort (and ticket price?) for the new seats in this USD $1.2 million upgrade

West Acres Cinema

As part of its makeover of the West Acres Cinema, Marcus Theatres is pursuing a liquor license for the site. If approved, the company plans to build a Take Five lounge where adult beverages would be served.

When the idea for a theater drinking lounge was discussed earlier this year at a liquor control board meeting, a number of city officials and city residents expressed doubts about the plan.

Menefee said if the lounge plan is approved, West Acres Cinema also will get a Zaffiro’s Express, a small restaurant that will serve pizza, sandwiches, salads and desserts.

So bar and cine-dining are on the menu in this $700,000 upgrade.

Safari Theater

Last year, Marcus Theatres indicated the Safari 7 Cinema, located at 925 30th Ave. S., in Moorhead, was up for sale.

The theater shows second-run movies on 35mm film at discounted prices.

Marcus Theatres was looking to sell the property because it did not want to incur the cost of upgrading the theater to show movies in digital format.

At present, the property is not for sale, and Marcus Theatres is in the process of reviewing possible enhancements for the theater, Menefee said.

What those improvements are Marcus won’t reveal just yet, but to keep going it will need digital projectors.


Hayden Orpheum in Cremorne

Australia: Cinema tickets are getting more expensive Down Under. But there is also a growing trend towards discounting in order to drive sales.

In what could a psychological barrier for movie-goers, the top price of an ordinary cinema ticket has hit $20.

Two Sydney cinemas have pioneered the price increase — the Cremorne Orpheum and Palace Norton Street in Leichhardt — and others are expected to follow around the country soon.

“It’s just a question of a short period of time,” said the chief executive of Palace Cinemas, Benjamin Zeccola, who blamed increases in wages, rent and maintenance and energy costs.

“Ticket prices need to keep pace with rising costs. It’s horrendously expensive running cinemas.”  LINK

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Daily Cinema Digest – Thursday 3 April 2014

Noah and Captain america

NATO President John Fithian was vocal at CinemaCon about getting studios to spread the releases more widely than just the summer and holiday windows. This year it looks like he is getting his wish, with summer already starting in April with films like Noah, Captain America 2, Rio 2 and Transcendence.

As Bloomberg news notes in an article with the telling title ‘Studios Dodge Slugfest Opening ‘Captain America’ in April‘:

The studios are angling to avoid a repeat of last summer, when too many big-budget films came out at the same time. While industry sales set a record, the releases cannibalized each other. By staggering them, studios and exhibitors limit head-to-head competition for target audiences and cut the risk a costly picture will be overshadowed too quickly.

“What you are seeing this year is absolutely a conscious move to space out releases,” Jeff Goldstein, executive vice president for domestic distribution at Warner Bros., said in an interview. “It is an important change.”

Exhibitors are also keen to stress the benefits that an extended release schedule brings.

“You’re always going to want certain films to be in that key summer period, because children are out of school and you want that repeat business,” Amy Miles, chief executive officer of Regal Entertainment Group, the No. 1 U.S. cinema chain, said at a Deutsche Bank conference last month. “But I do think the studios are getting better from a scheduling perspective.”

However, it is worth remembering that with international markets (read: China) growing in importance, the US ‘summer window’ is becoming less significant for Hollywood studios keen on big global returns for their films.


Prasad Imax Hydrabad

India: Exposing lax security at malls and cinemas in India, an undercover investigation in Hydrabad saw teams being able to smuggle guns into Prasad’s Imax cinema:

The decoy teams deployed by the central zone police of Hyderabad exposed security loopholes at several busy multiplexes and shopping malls in city on Wednesday. According to Central Zone DCP VB Kamalasan Reddy, the decoy teams managed to enter Prasad’s I-Max multiplex at Necklace Road, Big Bazar shopping complex in Abids and several other places in the city with guns. “We have found out that the screening of customers at certain shopping malls and multiplexes is not up to the mark and notices will be issued to the managers of these places immediately,” the DCP said.  LINK

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Daily Cinema Digest – Tuesday 1 April 2014

YouTube Preview Image

Celluloid Junkie can exclusively reveal that Christie Digital is planning to counter Barco’s tri-screen ‘Escape’ system, launched at CinemaCon, by resurrecting the ‘Polyvision‘ triptych format invented in the 1920s that predates Cinerama.

Though not formally announced yet, we understand that Christie’s Polyvision 2.0 will be used at NAB next week to show a digitally restored version of Abel Gance’s silent masterpiece Napoleon, which first used the format in 1927 for the film’s final battle sequence (see video above).

Speaking off the record, my source at Christie tells me that:

This will be the ultimate immersive experience that will even leave Occulus in the dust. We’ve had tremendous interest already and fully expect Christie-Polyvision to overtake IMAX installations by this summer, when Napoleon will be re-released on a wide scale. We see the film as having the combined appeal of The Artist, Avatar and The Hobbit – not least given its five-and-a half-hour running time and unique digital 0.0 sound mix.

Combined with the digital Polyvision 2.0 launch, Christie is expected to name the Honorary Academy Award recipient, film historian and archivist Kevin Brownlow as the company’s in-house ‘Retrologist’. My source tell me that Brownlow will dig through film archives and museums to uncover more cinema technologies of the past for the future.

We understand that the development came after a protracted internal battle in Christie between those who favoured the digital triptych solution and others who favoured an Imax-size quad-screen solution, which would have been used to show Mike Figgis’ film Timecode (2000) all-year round. Mark this historic date in your calendar!

Digital Cinema

Malaysia: No joke this one; a judge in Malaysia has given the go ahead for Malaysian cinema operators to challenge the ban from local film body to charge local film producers virtual print fees (VPFs). This has been going on since 2 October last year and creates a problematic precedent given Hollywood studios’ most favoured nation (MFN) clauses in most VPF agreements.

The High Court(Appellate and Special Powers) granted leave to the Malaysian Association of Film Exhibitors(Mafe) to proceed with judicial review against the National Film Development Corporation(Finas) over Finas’ decision to prohibit Mafe from imposing virtual print fee(VPF) on local film producers.

Judge Datuk Zaleha Yusof made the ruling while in chambers today. She made no order to cost and fixed April 15 for case management.  LINK


Muppets most wanted

UK – Tomorrow (2 April) is World Autism Day and Vue Worcester and Bolton are two of (hopefully) many cinema that will celebrate it by hosting a special autism-friendly screening of Muppets Most Wanted with dim lights, low sound and no adverts.

Robert Wilkins, general manager at Vue Worcester, said: “At Vue Worcester we are dedicated to providing all our customers with the best cinematic experience possible.

“We are therefore delighted to be bringing The Muppets Most Wanted autism friendly screening to our customers to mark World Autism Awareness Day and aim to provide cinema goers with an enjoyable experience specifically tailored to their needs.”  LINK1 and LINK2

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RoboCop’s 3D Success in China Spells Trouble for Imax


The 10-day haul of RMB 76.3 million (USD $42 million) of RoboCop in China spells major challenge for Imax, as it affirms the arrival of its biggest potential rival on the large format (LF) and 3D scene in China and possibly beyond.

Much like Robocop vs. Enforcement Droid Series 209 in the original film, this will be an un-even match where the largest firepower will not necessarily win out over the smaller new rival. As LA Times notes, “Jose Padillha’s remake may yield more in China than it has in the U.S. and Canada, where it has made $54 million since its mid-February release.” A large portion of this comes from the cinemas showing it in 3D (the only country in the world to show it this way) and on large format screen – though crucially not Imax screens but ones from China Film Giant Screen (CFGS).


In order to understand the challenge that CFGS poses to Imax it is important to know a bit about the history of LF film and cinema. The format was effectively invented by Canada’s Imax and showcased at the 1970 Osaka Expo. Because of the inherent limitations of 70mm films, feature films were not practical, which is why it tended to focus on documentaries about Africa or Space Station for school classes and museum visitors. Imax’s only real competitor during this time was Iwerks Entertainment, though the latter was mainly focusing on specialty venues and virtual reality theatres.

In 2001 Imax was nearly wiped out by the spate of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection filings from US cinema chains that saw long-term deals with the Canadian firm cancelled. Imax slowly re-built itself with a focus on feature films and courting Hollywood for first-run releases converted for the LF screen using the in-house DMR process.

Imax struck gold with Polar Express in 3D and soon started focusing more on multiplexes while rolling out new digital projection technology that did away with the 70mm limitations. Because many cinema chains objected to Imax’s terms, they created own-brand LF screens, with names such as Cinemark’s XD, Regal’s RPX, AMC’s ETX, Carmike Cinemas’ BigD and VueXtreme. 3D vendor RealD also tried creating a unifying brand with the Luxe. However, none have created the same inelastic demand at a premium pricing point that Imax achieved. Then along came CFGS.


CFGS is challenging Imax on two fronts with the RoboCop release. The first is the 2D-to-3D conversion, which was undertaken in-house by Cubic Pictures for a China-only 3D release.

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