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Last Updated: Monday, 5 January, 2004, 14:20 GMT
Imax cinemas shrug off fears
London's BFI Imax
The Imax in Waterloo has had a busy year
Imax cinemas in the UK say they believe 2004 will be a good year, despite the recent closure of the Birmingham screen.

The screen, based at the new development in the city's Millennium Point, closed last week after only two years.

Some of its screenings were seen by as few as four people. It has closed after losing more than 600,000 in a year, according to reports.

Imax cinemas, which show films in a "wrap-around" screen as tall as five stories high, have traditionally shown spectacular documentaries such as James Cameron's Ghost of the Abyss and the Tom Cruise-narrated 3D film Space Station.

But despite the closure, some of the other eight Imaxs in the UK say that 2003 has been their best year yet - and they expect this year to be just as promising.

Across the UK Imax screens are starting to move away from the educational content to more mainstream films.

Amanda Neville, the director of the British Film Institute which runs Imax, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the format was not on its way out.

"Imax has been around for many, many years... I think it's a shame that the screen at Birmingham went down. However, we have greater hopes for Imax now than ever in the past," she said.

London Waterloo
London Science Museum

"The technology has been developed so that it's now possible to take mainstream films such as The Matrix, and through digital technology, something called DMR, these films can be blown up onto Imax film."

The company that makes Imax films, based in Canada, is aggressively promoting its screens to studios.

Last year they made Imax versions of the two Matrix sequels, The Matrix: Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions.

The year before that an Imax version was made of the Star Wars prequel Attack of the Clones.

The London screen became the most successful large-format venue in Europe to show the "stretched" version of The Matrix, its spokeswoman told BBC News Online.

"The technology can be used on any film, and it does not lead to any loss of sound of picture quality," she said.

Imax has already signed up with Warner Bros to release the third, eagerly-awaited Harry Potter film, The Prisoner of Azkaban, in the format.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
The new Harry Potter film will be shown in Imax cinemas

"Imax is not a gimmick - it is appealing to a wide audience," the spokeswoman added.

Bill Lawrence, the head of film at the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television in Bradford, also told BBC News Online the Bradford screen was also expecting another record year.

But Mr Lawrence also said Imax screens had to anticipate what their audiences wanted if they were to keep attracting moviegoers.

"We have been operating since 1983, and for the first 10 or 12 years people were happy to see anything - we've had to get away from just showing Imax films. We've got to show things that are more interesting.

"Imax has been desperate for good stories," he said.

Mr Lawrence added he thought the Birmingham cinema could yet reopen.

"I don't think it is the last we will hear of the Birmingham Imax."

Last picture show at 3D cinema
31 Dec 03  |  West Midlands
Imax screenings for Potter film
19 Dec 03  |  Entertainment
Matrix sequel marks Imax first
24 Apr 03  |  Entertainment
Imax expands its action movies
26 Nov 02  |  Entertainment
Apollo 13 bound for Imax
22 Mar 02  |  Entertainment

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