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Imax hastens digital debut

Imax will start converting theaters from film to digital in the second quarter of 2008, six months earlier than earlier planned.

Imax is following the smaller-format movie industry to digital projection technology a bit more rapidly than earlier planned.

The company plans to install three prototype systems in the second quarter of 2008 with a full transformation in the second half of the year. Previously, the company had planned to begin the transformation sometime between late 2008 and mid-2009, the company said.

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"Several key exhibitors, studios and consumer research groups have already experienced the digital prototype we've been running for the past several months, and we are very encouraged by the unanimously positive reaction to the next iteration of the Imax experience," said Richard Gelfond and Bradley Wechsler, Imax's co-chairmen and co-CEOs, in a statement.

Digital movies require expensive new projectors, but they offer some advantages. Digital movies don't wear out with multiple showings, as film does, the image is steadier, and studios don't have to create expensive prints. And digital copies being cheaper, it's easier to launch a movie on a grander scale to head off sales of pirated copies.

And digital display also is a better foundation for 3D movies, which already are an element of the Imax business.