Sharp's 108-inch LCD debuts at new Tokyo cinema complex

Sharp's 108-inch LCD panel has its first use promoting movies in the lobby of a new cinema complex that opens in Tokyo this weekend.

A new cinema complex opens in downtown Tokyo this weekend but the screens won't be the only thing drawing the attention of customers. The Piccadilly cinema in Tokyo's Shinjuku district is the first place in the world that people can see Sharp's monster 108-inch LCD (liquid crystal display) screen in use.

The screen, which was first unveiled as a prototype at CES 2007, is the largest LCD available from any manufacturer and is only possible because Sharp recently opened a new plant in Japan that can handle sheets of glass large enough to make the screen.

The plant, at Kameyama in western Japan, handles so-called 8th generation glass sheets, which measure 2.2 meters by 2.5 meters. Usually several displays are made on each sheet -- for example the 8G glass is most economically suited to making eight 46-inch panels or six 52-inch panels -- but in the case of the new screen, the entire sheet has been used.

For that reason, a larger screen isn't likely to hit the market until a more advanced factory is built and at present no LCD-maker has announced concrete plans to invest in such a factory.

At the Piccadilly, the screen sits on the third-floor lobby area above a set of escalators and is used to show previews of upcoming movies. Its positioning makes it a little hard to really appreciate the sheer size of the set as the lobby is large and the escalators mean customers cannot get close to it. The screen appeared a lot larger when debuted at CES because it was easy to see that it's taller than a person.

The full high-definition screen is complemented by 50 other LCD panels around the complex. Several 65-inch panels sit above the ticketing desk and show the latest movie times and schedules while smaller 52-inch panels are located above the food counter to provide changing promotions of different items.

With the debut of the screen at the Piccadilly, Sharp is launching the panel on the commercial market as a build-to-order product. It's aimed at corporate users in the public information, entertainment and broadcasting industries and costs ÂYEN 11 million (US$103,000).

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Martyn Williams

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