These days the word IMAX is thrown around quite a bit. Too much really. How so, you ask? Well, there’s a growing trend that began a few years ago involving nearly-average sized movie screens being billed as IMAX Experiences. What’s the difference between an IMAX and IMAX Experience screen? A whole hell of a lot actually. For instance, if you were to go to one of these IMAX Experience screens, you’d be paying the same amount as a regular IMAX ticket (roughly $15) to view a movie on a screen that’s not even close to regulation IMAX size. Let’s face it. That’s a fucking rip off. In an IMAX Experience theater, you’ll be paying a five to six dollar premium and getting a beefed up sound system on a slightly larger-than-average sized screen with digital projection. Nothing more.
Why is this such a big deal? Because theaters with IMAX Experience screens don’t expect you to know the difference before buying a ticket, and they certainly don’t expect you to research it before you’re reaching for your wallet. And you can be damn sure they won’t advertise that their IMAX Experience screens aren’t really IMAX screens. Why would they? They’re making bank off of a regular screen without having to make any kind of investment in a real IMAX screen. It’s the most dishonest, unethical, and widespread trend in the realm of film exhibition. So just how big of a difference is there between the two screen sizes?
The average IMAX movie theater screens measure 97′ wide by 76′ high. The smaller IMAX Experience screens can have screen sizes up to 58′ wide by 28′ high, which is slightly larger than your average movie screen. Here’s a comparison of what that difference in size looks like:
The large projection, and high quality exhibition is the whole reason for the IMAX system existing. If you bought an iPad from some online retailer only to receive some cheap Chinese knock-off, you’d be pretty pissed, right? I’m guessing you wouldn’t take it laying down. You’d demand the real thing or your money back. The only difference between this analogy and the IMAX Experience, is that most online retailers would punish the seller for not being clear about the product being sold.
IMAX films were shot on 70mm film stock and are meant to be projected on a screen that showcases all of the detail captured on the massive frames of film. A standard movie is shot on 35mm film stock, which looks something like this when placed next to a 70mm IMAX frame of film:
A frame of standard 35mm film is ten times smaller than a frame of 70mm IMAX film. Having the 70mm film crushed down to a medium sized screen is bad enough, But to charge customers the same ticket price as a full IMAX presentation should be a crime. I’ve never once seen a disclaimer anywhere at an IMAX Experience theater explaining that screen in question wasn’t truly IMAX. If you can find a disclaimer at your local LIEMAX theater, well then, you’d be the first.
Before paying for a marked up IMAX Experience ticket, make sure you research the theater beforehand. The best way to fight the unethical trend, is to simply avoid any IMAX Experience screens in your town and instead opt to drive a bit further for the real deal. Either that or skip the IMAX thing altogether. I don’t want you to go blaming the sketchy business practice solely on IMAX though. The fault primarily lies with the exhibitors, who want to snag a few extra bucks without making an investment in the real deal. Do your part by avoiding the fakes, spreading the word, and only supporting true IMAX screens.