Russia Launches IMAX Rival After Lawsuit Victory

By Patrick von Sychowski | April 1, 2023 12:10 am PDT

Russian film distributor Central Partnership has unveiled a local alternative to IMAX, called Cosmax, after the the large format operator lost a local lawsuit challenging its withdrawal from the Russian Federation. The first film to be shown in the new format will be “The Challenge” (also known as “Doctor’s House Call”), an Russian space drama partially filmed aboard the International Space Station, which premieres 20 April.

IMAX pulled out of the Russian Federartion on 1 June 2022, more than three months after the country’s large scale invasion of Ukraine. Russia’s largest cinema chain, Formula Kino and Cinema Park, responded by filing a lawsuit on 26 October against IMAX for breach of contract. On 22 March this year the Moscow Arbitration Court demanded that IMAX fulfill the contracts previously signed with Russian cinema operators. IMAX did not resume work and has one moth to challenge the court’s decision. According to Nevafilm Research there were 50 IMAX screens in Russia as of 2021, of which 29 were part of the Cinema Park and Formula Kino networks.

The Cosmax system is said to cost 5 million rubles (USD $64,500), with “a high-quality digital projector and sound equipment are needed to show films in the new format.” The developers also said that they are in the process of obtaining a patent for their technology.

“In order to convert the footage to Cosmax, the picture must first be shot in high resolution, with a certain framing. Cosmax will be able to support any open format. But the maximum quality will be achieved only when showing a picture taken in this format… [The technology] combines the most clear and rich image, as well as deep and detailed sound.”

Vadim Vereshchagin, Head of Central Partnership

Media reports about the technology state the developers will have “to be able to prove, if something happens, that this is an original development, which is technically very different from IMAX.”  Cosmax is said to be able to support any open format, meaning standard DCPs, but not IMAX ones as these are proprietary.

With many Western companies pulling out of Russia over its war against Ukraine, local alternatives have popped up for everything from Starbucks to McDonalds. However, Western technology sanctions have led to a shortage of electronics and components, so it is not clear what underpins the Cosmax technology and how it works. While Hollywood has stopped distributing feature films to Russia, other Korean, Indian, European and independent distributors are filling the void with titles such as Lionsgate’s “John Wick: Chapter 4.”

Patrick von Sychowski
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