IMAX vs. RealD Beowulf 3D smackdown at Regal

By Patrick von Sychowski | November 6, 2007 3:52 am PST

An epic battle is brewing at Regal Cinemas this month, with ‘Beowulf‘ going up against itself in on both IMAX analogue 3D and RealD‘s digital 3D systems. According to the Regal press release there is even two different names for the movie experience, depending on which one you opt for Beowulf: An IMAX 3D Experience and Beowulf in DIGITAL 3D:

The movie is being offered in IMAX 3D and DIGITAL 3D in a total of 123 Regal Entertainment Group theatres across the country. The new Paramount Pictures release of Beowulf will be available in conventional 35mm format, digital projection, DIGITAL 3D and IMAX 3D. Regal Entertainment Group will host advance screenings of the film beginning at 9:15pm on Thursday, November 15.Beowulf 3D is a terrific and entertaining experience. We are certain moviegoers will enjoy the unique 3D presentation.

“Regal Entertainment Group is proud to offer Beowulf in this exciting 3D format. In numerous cities across the country Regal is pleased to be programming IMAX 3D and DIGITAL 3D versions of the epic tale,” stated Dick Westerling, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Advertising for Regal Entertainment Group. “Beowulf 3D is a terrific and entertaining experience. We are certain moviegoers will enjoy the unique 3D presentation.”

So with Beowulf being shown 35mm analogue print, standard 2-D digital cinema, RealD digital 3D and Imax digital 3D, this must be the most formats that a film has ever been released in simultaneously by one exhibitor. Would it have been too much to ask that they also make red-blue anaglyph analogue 3D print as well, just for the fun of having three 3D format and three print formats? I’m sure that most movie goers given the choice will opt for one of the two 3D formats over print or 2D digital. But which one? Here is where it gets even more interesting:

Beowulf: An IMAX 3D Experience will be available at 16 Regal Entertainment Group IMAX theatres across the country. In IMAX 3D, films virtually jump off of the screen and float around the theatre. This is made possible by a combination of IMAXs powerful 3D projector which projects two strips of large-format film and polarized 3D glasses that audience members wear to fuse the left and right eye images. The result is an amazing three-dimensional cinematic experience where the screen disappears and the film becomes a virtual reality.

Regal Entertainment Group will present Beowulf in DIGITAL 3D at 121 locations utilizing REAL D Cinema Systems. REAL D Cinema Systems are comprised of several components, including a specially-treated movie screen; polarized 3D glasses; and the REAL D Cinema Z-Screen lens that mounts in front of the digital projector, enabling the projector to show three-dimensional images. Customized software by REAL D integrates the components to deliver a flawless 3D movie experience.

So if we do the math then 16 Imax 3D screens plus 121 RealD locations should make it a total of 137 3D Regal sites. But the press release clearly says 123 locations. So this must mean that there will be Regal multiplexes showing both Imax 3D and RealD 3D versions of the film! Which one will people opt for? Will the ticket price be different? How will the various versions be promoted in cinemas? There will be some very interesting number crunching going on at Regal, Imax, RealD, Paramount and elsewhere after the opening weekend. Unlike in the movie, one adversary will not finish off the other completely, but it might give us an interesting pointer of where the 3D battle is headed.

Longer term neither will be the true winner as 3D is already heading to the home. Taiwanese researchers are predicting 3D LCD TVs for the home within two years, which should be just in time for the network TV premier of ‘Beowulf’, so people will now be able to say that they don’t feel like going to the cinema but will catch in 3D at home later.

Patrick von Sychowski
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