IMAX theaters have become an increasingly important part of the movie business's continuing success over the past few years, as theaters have realized that (1) you can't "pirate" the IMAX experience and (2) people are often willing to pay more for it. But, it appears that at least one theater began to wonder why it had to pay IMAX so much for such an offering, and decided to set out on its own to build a competitor. The only problem is that this theater, Cinemark, has been a customer of IMAX, so now IMAX is suing Cinemark for trade secret violations
and breach of contract (sent in by Eric Goldman
The details of the case certainly look like a business deal gone bad, and also involve Cinemark preemptively going to Texas (of course) to file a patent action against IMAX, asking the court to make clear that it does not infringe on IMAX's patents. There may very well be breach of contract issues involved here, so IMAX may have a decent case on that front. But what's more interesting is the question of whether or not there are trade secret violations here. We don't talk about trade secret protections as much around here, because they really don't come up that often. But IMAX is claiming that it shared proprietary trade secret info with Cinemark as part of their relationship, and that info was used by Cinemark to build its competing service.
Perhaps much more interesting, however, is the fact that, at least according to the IMAX lawsuit, the Cinemark XD quality has been reviewed poorly compared to IMAX (I looked around and actually found the reviews to be mixed, with many saying that the two are comparable in terms of experience). Cinemark is a much bigger company than IMAX, and had direct access to all of their technology -- and, even so, at least some are saying that the end result doesn't measure up. I'm reminded again of how silly it is to claim that big companies can always "steal" good ideas from smaller ones. It's simply not that easy. Beyond just the basic quality issues, IMAX really has built up a great brand name, and many people do think specifically about going to see "IMAX films." Cinemark can chip into that, but it's going to take a lot of marketing effort. And, really, what's wrong with a bit of competition? IMAX has had the market to itself for years, and some competition between two different methods of "immersive" movie-going experiences seems like it should only create a better situation for consumers.