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[MUSIC PLAYING] PETE CASHMORE: I'm Pete Cashmore, the founder and CEO at Mashable. And we're at Documented@Davos, hosted by Scribd, here in very snowy Davos today, very snowy view outside the window. And it's a pleasure to be joined by CEO of IMAX, Richard Gelfond. And we're very excited to talk about the future of IMAX, where IMAX is going, the future of 3D in particular. So perhaps you could start and just tell us a little bit about where IMAX is, what's the state of IMAX right now. RICHARD GELFOND: IMAX has been around for about 45 years. And one of the most interesting parts of our story is since 2008, when the world has been in, obviously, this bad recession, we've grown our screen count by about 30% compounded around the world. And in China, in 2008, we had 13 theaters. And over the next couple of years, signed and ready to go, is over 200 theaters in IMAX. So we've seen, as you've seen this increase in global wealth and the BRIC countries coming out, IMAX has really been leading this entertainment export boom. At the same time that's been happening, we've been increasing our presence in exporting North American films. So whereas we used to do more documentaries, more bears, whales, and seals movies, now we're doing-- we just did Mission: Impossible 4, which was a huge success. We're doing, coming up, The Dark Knight Rises, Chris Nolan's last part of the Batman series, The Hobbit, Spiderman. So we're really taking entertainment to new places in both ways, new countries, but also I think we're taking traditional fare and making it more exciting for audiences. I think part of what's feeding it is what we're doing here, streaming video, what's going on with DVDs, bigger screens in the home. So people go out to the movies around the world, and they don't want to just see the same thing they can get in their home. They want something really special. PETE CASHMORE: Well, let's talk about that because I think a lot of people-increasingly, we hear people have bigger and bigger televisions at home. What is the lasting appeal of going to the theater?
RICHARD GELFOND: I think it's much more of a social experience. Even though, obviously, online is social, it's more one-on-one or a chat group. I think unless you're prepared to really lock yourself with a boat anchor to your couch, and load up on Doritos, and have no life outside of that, people crave some kind of a social experience. And I think going to the movies is that, and I think particularly IMAX. It becomes a shared experience. It's almost like you can go to dinner with your friends. But if you go on vacation with your friends, it feels very different. Going to an experience like IMAX with a group of people, those you know and those you don't, it really has this immersive, getaway feel. PETE CASHMORE: I'm interested in your thoughts as television-- obviously, people think of IMAX, they instantly think of 3D. And I know that's not the whole picture of your business. But what do you think about 3D coming to the home? RICHARD GELFOND: Actually, we're a little bit of a participant in that. We have a 3D cable channel with Sony and Discovery. So I've hedged my bets a little bit by doing that. I think the killer application for 3D in the home is actually sports. Because-- I don't know whether you've had a chance to see it or not-- but it looks really great. As a matter of fact, I may be the only person in the world that has two 3D television sets. So that's what I really like. I like watching sport. The sport I hate the most actually looks the best in 3D, which is golf. Because golf is such a hilly game. Whereas in 2D on a television, it looks very flat. There is some impediments to it which is the whole way you shoot 2D is different. The cameras are different, the angles are different, the lighting is different. So 3D in the home is right now caught in one of these chicken and egg paradigms where you can't really shoot enough until you have more TVs. And you can't really sell the TVs until you have enough content. I think ESPN, in particular, has done a very good job. Our network is called 3net, and we're the first 24/7 network to try and do it. But hopefully, it's all going to come together.
PETE CASHMORE: When do you think it will come together? Because I've been at CES for multiple years. And every year, it's OK, this is the year. And even this year, to some extent, we were seeing more and more 3D TVs. When will we get the point where everyone has one 3D TV or, like you, two 3D TVs in their home? RICHARD GELFOND: This is the year. PETE CASHMORE: This is it? RICHARD GELFOND: No, no, I'm just kidding. This isn't the year. I think we need more of an install base, as I say. And I think it's a gradual process. I was talking to Jim Cameron about it maybe six months ago. And his view is there needs to be an intermediate way to shoot 3D for sports events. So the same people who are shooting in 2D shoot in 3D at the same time and then distribute the content accordingly. I think when that happens, which hopefully will be in the next couple years, you'll see more sales of 3D TV sets, and you'll see it open up. PETE CASHMORE: Do you think there's a particular technology with 3D TV that's going to be the breakthrough? Because I was at CES a couple of weeks ago, and this time last year, they were very much-- it was all glasses all the time. This year, it was some new technologies we're seeing that don't require glasses. Multiple people can watch from different angles and see in 3D. Is glasses a barrier to 3D TV? RICHARD GELFOND: There's no question glasses are a barrier. People don't love wearing them. But I think it's going to be a long time until a reasonably-sized 3D TV without glasses works. It works if you sit in front of it, and you don't move, and the scenes are shot a certain way, which is some of the things you're seeing at CES. They show it that way deliberately. But if you reach to take a phone call, all of a sudden, it doesn't work. There are certain laws of physics that make it difficult. So for example, in IMAX, it's going to be a very long time before you could do it without glasses. But I think people will-- for the right experience, they'll get used to glasses.
Take the Super Bowl for example, which is-- my New York Giants are in it, so I have a great personal interest. But if I could watch the Super Bowl in 3D, I don't think it would bother me that much to do it. To do it on a daily basis, I think you raise a good point. PETE CASHMORE: So it's a special event. It's a special occasion. It's a experience. RICHARD GELFOND: Exactly. PETE CASHMORE: Great. Maybe you could tell us a little bit-- because I think when people do think about IMAX, they-- maybe it's just me. I instantly think of that great 3D experience in the cinema with the wraparound screen. Maybe you could tell us a little bit about how much more diverse your business is than what people think when they hear IMAX. RICHARD GELFOND: As a matter of fact, all things being equal, I would rather show a film in 2D than I would in 3D. PETE CASHMORE: Why is that? RICHARD GELFOND: Because 3D, as good an experience as it is, it's actually more of an intimate experience. The 3D brings it closer to your face with the glasses. So you can actually go and touch it. But in some ways, IMAX is best when you see these great vistas. So we just did Mission: Impossible 4 with Tom Cruise. And we filmed him scaling the Burj, the largest building in the world in Dubai, with IMAX cameras. And when I saw it, my palms are sweating, I'm on the edge of my seat. I think it creates a sense of immersiveness. And Chris Nolan is doing The Dark Knight Rises this July. And he's doing about half of it with IMAX cameras shot specifically. And there was a prologue that was on the front end of Mission: Impossible 4. And if you didn't see it, you really have to see it. PETE CASHMORE: I haven't seen it yet. But it seems like everyone in the world has at this point based on the ratings. RICHARD GELFOND: It's really incredible. So I think it really depends on the movie. Some movies are right for 3D. And I think 3D will have a future.
But I think 2D has been around for a very long time. And I think, for the right kind of vistas and everything, that's still going to be there. I think the world got a little caught up in a 3D craze. So Avatar happened, and everybody said, oh, all I have to do is put it in 3D, and it'll be the biggest movie of all time because Jim Cameron did it. But in fact, Jim spent years perfecting his 3D technology. And he's one of the few people who's talented enough to mix story and technology. I think just slapping a 3D camera on a 2D story doesn't work. PETE CASHMORE: And we've seen a few instances of that where it hasn't worked so well. Maybe you could tell us a little bit about the future of IMAX, where you're going, what do you see is the potential markets you'll be getting into. RICHARD GELFOND: Well, we have about 500 commercial theaters open right now. We're opening more than 100 a year. Recently, we were opening three or four a week, as I said, a lot in developing markets. As income grows and people can meet their basic needs, I think entertainment is the next thing around. At the moment, it looks like we have about 1,500 potential markets. We're 1/3 penetrated as to where we think we can go. We're also looking at things like laser technology. We acquired some patents from Kodak that will enable us to be way brighter than we are today. So 3D, one of the problems is it gets a little washed out because you're wearing sunglasses, essentially, watching the image. And with our new technology, it's so bright, and the contrast is so great. So I think that'll bring us to a different place. In thinking broader, I'm thinking someday virtual reality maybe because you can see the logical extension. I'd also like to do something like IMAX-ize other things. So whether it was your iPhone or whether it was your computer, can we develop algorithms to make that look better than it otherwise would. And those are the kinds of things we're thinking about. PETE CASHMORE: Do you mean going 3D on that? Or what kind of experiences? RICHARD GELFOND: It could be 2D or 3D. But think of a streamed video image on a computer screen right now, which isn't so great necessarily. I'd like to be able to press a button that says, The IMAX Button, and all of a sudden, it looks a lot better. PETE CASHMORE: And IMAX is the experience, the enhanced experience. Is that what you want to be the code word?
RICHARD GELFOND: Exactly, now I don't want to tell you that I've figured out how to do that yet. But a minor problem. PETE CASHMORE: Can we just IMAX life and just take it up a notch? RICHARD GELFOND: Exactly. PETE CASHMORE: I think we're getting called for time. Real quick though, you mentioned Kodak. And I know they were in the news recently because they've just actually gone bankrupt. What do you think the future is for that company? RICHARD GELFOND: I think it's going to be tough. Because I think they have an infrastructure to produce a certain amount of film, both for the movie industry as well as consumers, like plants of a certain size and contracts of a certain size. And I just think they're going to have to significantly downsize. Now whether they're going to be able to do that on their own or they're going to have to sell off pieces of it, that remains to be seen. PETE CASHMORE: Well, it would seem that the brand is enduring. RICHARD GELFOND: Yeah, the brand is enduring except digital and Hollywood, at least, has taken away an awful lot of the business. And Fuji made significant inroads into consumer demand. I think the brand is probably more enduring for people my age. PETE CASHMORE: It may be one of those situations where someone snaps up the brands just to have that name versus the actual technology or something. RICHARD GELFOND: Yeah, I think so. I don't think to people on the Internet today and people with digital cameras that Kodak has the same magic that it had when I was growing up and we went to Disneyland and took the little yellow boxes. I don't think that brand association still endures. PETE CASHMORE: Got it. Well, thanks so much. Richard Gelfond, CEO of IMAX. It was great to talk to you. And stick with us at Documented@Davos with Scribd and Mashable. We've got many, many more interviews coming up. Thanks so much. [MUSIC PLAYING]
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