CGV, Korea’s largest multiplex circuit, has installed Christie’s 6P laser projection system in its PLF branded giant screen, Starium, one of the largest commercial cinema screens worldwide at over 32m wide. The upgrade will replace Starium’s existing dual Christie 4K xenon projection system at the CGV Young-Deong-Po in Seoul with a pair of Christie 4K laser heads, a 6P modular laser light engine, a Christie 4K 3D high bitrate server and a new premium white screen. The CP42LH RGB laser projection system has a light output of up to 108,000 lumens and is capable of projecting 3D at over 14 foot lamberts. It consists of rack mounted laser modules and can scale up to 12 laser models depending on brightness requirements. Each rack provides up to 60,000 lumens.
Other venues equipped with Christie laser projection include Seattle Cinerama, Moody Gardens in North America and Shanghai Film Arts Centre, which was the first to install. Notably, Dolby Cinema, a global branded premium experience which is new in the market but gaining some traction, is also anchored by Christie’s 6P laser technology.
The development comes as fellow Korean circuit, Lotte Cinema, has equipped its premium branded screen with Barco’s 6P laser projector. The DP4K-60L projector will be deployed in the extra-large 22m Super Plex auditorium. The move for Lotte was underpinned by the growing need to differentiate image quality. Lotte Cinema is also home to Super Plex G, which was officially recognised as the largest cinema screen in the world at over 34m wide. The DP4K-60L is the highest brightness specified laser projector, and one of four core projector models for Barco’s high-end laser cinema projector range. Barco has also recently announced it will make available laser retrofit machines with Laser phosphor technology as well as the ability to upgrade existing Series 2 projectors with laser phosphor engines in the field.
Barco reportedly has around 35 high-end laser projectors installed in cinemas worldwide, including in China. Other Barco customers include pan-European operator Kinepolis and Santikos in North America, which has recently equipped an entire multiplex with laser-illuminated projectors. Barco also supplies laser projection technology to Imax.
The development shows how exhibitors are continually looking to invest in the latest technology in order to deliver on the promise of premium cinema, particularly for the highly coveted PLF screens. The move to convert existing PLF screens to laser projection is underpinned by the need to continually offer the optimum environment in which to experience a film, as well as the need to stay ahead of both the technology and certainly in this case the competition, given that both circuits are upgrading at the same time. Together, CGV and Lotte Cinema control the vast majority (over 75%) of screens in the territory as at end 2014 according to IHS data and therefore typically set the pace for Korean theatre innovation.
The move to high-end laser projection also offers a practical solution for delivering brighter 3D images, where insufficient light has been a proven deterrent for certain audiences for some 3D screenings. The wider move is also indicative of a trend to push the optimum technology configuration firstly through a PLF screen, which in turn can be marketed and priced appropriately.
The development shows how the market for high-end laser projectors will develop through a dual approach of upgrading existing pivotal screens in tandem with selecting laser outright for anchor screens as part of a new build. The switch to laser cinema projectors also comes ahead of certain key releases in the 2015 film slate, notably the next iteration in the StarWars franchise set for December 2015.