THE first IMAX theater outside Metro Manila was unveiled in SM City Cebu last week.

Allan Florendo, SM Cinema assistant vice president for sales and marketing, said the theater’s grand opening will be on July 9, with “Avatar” as the first movie. The movie will run for a week.

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“We are confident with the response of the market since Cebuanos already have a sophisticated taste. They are now up to date with digital technologies,” Florendo said in an interview shortly after the press screening of the 3D film “Under the Sea.”

In early 2008, SM Prime Holdings signed a deal with IMAX Corp. for the opening of additional IMAX theaters, following the success of the country’s first IMAX theater in SM Mall of Asia (MOA).

The IMAX theaters were scheduled to be opened in SM North Edsa and SM City Cebu in the third and last quarters of 2009.

“There was a bit of delay in the opening of the IMAX theater here because we wanted to make sure the Cebu market is ready for this digital technology. We really wanted to make sure that the timing is right,” Florendo said.

The SM City Cebu IMAX theater is the third IMAX theater opened by SM Cinema after SM MOA and SM North Edsa.

After Cebu, the company plans to build another IMAX theater in SM Davao next year.

The IMAX theater in Cebu, which replaced Cinema 4, has a smaller screen than the one in SM MOA. It is 14 meters high, unlike the 22-meter screen in MOA, but it will have a clearer picture quality due to its use of a digital projector rather than film projector.

P100 million

The company set aside P100 million for the renovation. The IMAX theater in Cebu has 462 seats. Its viewing rates range

from P350 for 2D films to P400 for 3D films.

Aside from “Avatar,” other films scheduled to be shown include “Under the Sea” (3D), “Inception” (2D), “Hubble” (3D), “Legend of the Guardians” (3D) and “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” (2D).

Florendo said SM will also launch its VIP Club nationwide in the third quarter this year. The club offers special privileges to moviegoers.

SM Cinema’s nationwide gross sales from tickets sold in its 206 theaters, with a combined seating capacity of 127,000, reached P2.5 billion in 2008.

IMAX is one of the world’s leading digital entertainment and technology companies. Its theaters deliver cinematic presentations using proprietary technology that display crystal-clear images on large screens.