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  1. #1


    IMAX: Then and Now

    I pitched this idea for an article to Jerry awhile back but he didn't go for it. But my notes for it were practically the article itself (though much rougher.) Reading it now it is a bit of a 'bitch session' but what can I say- I used to LOVE it, so what it's become is very disappointing. So I'm going to post it here for fun. Let me know what you guys think.

    IMAX: Then and Now


    Reasons why:

    Their base claim has shifted from "The biggest is best" to "What really matters is how close you are to the screen, not the size of it." Which is bullshit because according to their calculations (yes, they actually have a formula) sitting 9' from my 8' screen should feel like I'm watching 100' foot screen, which it doesn't, of course. Size matters or movie theaters wouldn't exist.

    Smaller screen sizes popping up in all the newer IMAX theaters. And people have noticed: there's a search engine to determine if your local IMAX is "real" IMAX size or not. (ie. LieMAX) https://johncanfield.me/blog/brand-c...d-imax-liemax/

    Switched to 4K Digital projection (almost) entirely, and in some cases just blown up 35mm or even 2K.
    Actually, the non-laser theaters aren't true 4K but two 2K Christie projectors side by side, which no matter how well-calibrated will never quite be as perfect as a true, single 4K projector. And if the calibration is off, obviously even worse.

    Only 10 or 12 channel sound vs. ATMOS 48 channel. And I think IMAX themselves do the mix for their theaters, based on what I'm not sure (maybe the standard 7.1 mix?), whereas ATMOS is mixed by the filmmakers.

    Retrofitting theaters/building new theaters with laser projectors. Guess what? They look like shit. Super bright colors, great blacks, but also the dreaded laser "speckle", like a pointillist painting. Eye-bleeding. But, like the dreaded "rainbow" effect of some DLP projectors, doesn't seem to affect everyone.) They are aware of the problem but their solution (vibrating the screen) doesn't work, at least not for me. I've seen it firsthand, we have one in SF. (Also seen it, much worse, on my Sony laser projector, which at the time (a year ago) had just come out. Since returned that POS.)

    Like 2D? Tough. Almost ALL IMAX showings are 3D now. Which I hate.

    And
    it's shit 3D. Instead of the old school active shutter glasses they once had, or even the now-common polarized glasses, they have new tech which causes crazy reflections if you wear them with eyeglasses- total dealbreaker for me, and lots of people wear eyeglasses. Shows how little they care/out of touch they are.

    RARELY are there still full size 70mm films (Except educational ones, but this is largely Hollywood's fault, not IMAX. Os is it? Gotta research more.)

    The tiered seating makes less sense now because the aspect ratio is now the standard size (2.35 or less I believe) and not the old IMAX ratio where the image was much taller.

    Most major chains now offer an IMAX-like experience. Ex. AMC has RPX theaters and Cinemark have XD theaters (hey, both have "X" in the title, too, hint hint) with screens only slightly smaller
    then an IMAX in the same complex. (It is mandated by IMAX that their screen has to be the biggest, even only if by a foot, so they can say "Our screen is bigger at this location". I spoke to the manager at Destiny USA here in Syracuse to confirm this. Also, they are bound by contract with IMAX to not give out the size of non-IMAX screens in the same complex that houses an IMAX screen. Kinda lame.)

    And the nail in the coffin: IMAX Private Theatre IMAX comes home. For only $400k you can get your own IMAX theater at home and pay way more than you would for the same tech as any home theater you might build as there's now nothing special about what they offer. You can't even get them with ATMOS. And screen size even has a max size as they only make three, pre-designed types of theater and I don't think (gotta check) you can do much in terms of customizing it with random cool designs and shit. They are all the same boring design style (I think). Want a bigger screen? Build it yourself to any size you desire, fuck IMAX. Also, have fun paying extra to have an IMAX logo all over the place.

    But it's not all bad...

    Their are still giant-size IMAX screens around (Metreon has one) and they plan to keep producing educational movies (so they say) in the old 70mm 8-perf format. (I think that's BS, we'll see. Since they are removing film projectors for digital all over.)

    Filmmakers with MASSIVE pull (and only those, such as Nolan and Bay) can demand that their films be shown in
    film on IMAX screens (and re-formatted 70mm capable normal screens) that offer it. (Ex. The last 3 Transformers movie are part IMAX 70mm as was Interstellar and the upcoming Dunkirk from Nolan.

    My buddy didn't notice the laser speckle and since he doesn't wear
    glasses, or the reflections with the new 3D tech. Some reviews I've read mention the speckle but say it was a non-issue. But they were probably courted by IMAX to say so. It's there, trust me- the Chinese Theater in LA has a laser projector now, so you can see firsthand.

    Well, that's all the good I can think of atm.


    CONCLUSION:

    It's still a great experience to most people, especially those that have never seen a "real" IMAX. But it's a far cry from what it once was, and while it's not completely dead yet, the writing is on the wall. Even Nolan and Bay won't be able to save it in the end. (Note that other directors still shoot on film (
    Coens in 35mm and Tarantino in 70mm for Hateful Eight, but since not many theaters can accommodate those formats anymore, its getting to be pointless.)

    My personal thoughts: Fuck you, IMAX. I'm only going to theaters those like RPX or XD when possible or those that still show
    film, like Alamo Drafthouse.

    Note: Last IMAX film I saw was Doctor Strange, at the Metreon in 4K laser with either 10 or 12 channel sound (gotta check) and their shit new 3D.

    Also, I think atm there are only 3 IMAX laser theaters in the US, (SF,
    LA and NY) but they are promoting the hell out of it, both on their website, with signs in-theater, and announcements before the film.
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  2. #2


    It's been so long ago, I can't remember the last time I saw a film in an IMAX theater.

    You're right, they used to be known for huge screens and 70mm projection systems. Of course, this was back when all theaters were film-based. I'm not really one to judge though. It's been a while since I have seen any movie in a commercial theater.

  3. #3


    its really funny u bring this up.

    i just watched Kong in IMAX 3D at an AMC theater. The only other movie i had ever seen in IMAX was Tron: Legacy in 3D, so 7 years ago.

    When I walked in with my son, my first impression was woh, this is MUCH smaller than i was expecting. i thought, hell im getting older, i must be remembering it wrong. i have been taking advantage of the newly opened DOLBY Cinema theater literally next to the IMAX at the same AMC theater. I laughed when u wrote 1 foot bigger qualifies, because to me, the DOLBY Cinema screen is just about a foot smaller!

    I chose IMAX to watch Kong because 1. the DOLBY Cinema was showing Logan 2. Kong is a movie about huge ape, why not see it in IMAX on the biggest screen ever!

    i also agree that the 3D aspect seems forced, and in Kong 2D would have been fine. I did not notice the effects u mentioned, but brighter to me is better so non 3D would have been fine.

    We had a good time and the sound was good, or should I say loud? it did not have the fine tuning of the Atmos from the DOLBY Cinema, but im no expert. And the prologue to Dunkirk was amazing!

    So u have been warned! i wonder if there is a way to find out which IMAX screens are legit?

  4. #4
    Senior Member David Vaughn's Avatar
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    Well said Brandon. I'm not an Imax fan either...never have been.
    David Vaughn
    Technical Writer/Blu-ray Reviewer
    Sound and Vision Magazine

  5. #5


    When done right, it's mind-blowing. Interstellar in 70mm IMAX is the greatest movie going experience I have ever had. Amazing.

    But when it's done the way they are doing it now it's... fine. But IMAX used to mean a substantially better experience and now it's either on par with, or less than, the other "premium" options out there.

    It's worth noting that when IMAX decided to go 4K (or 2K x 2K anyway) it was a new thing. All other digital theatres then were 2K. So they probably thought they'd have the 4K edge for awhile. But that was shortsighted, and that's why they are no longer what they once were. And now they are doubling down on 4K and installing the 4K laser projectors everywhere, at great expense. They have just been moving too slow on the digital front, when what they could have done is take advantage of their *still* superior 70mm format and provided filmmaker's incentives to shoot in that. (Now they have IMAX 4K cameras, and are promoting those to filmmakers, sigh.)

    Also, I find it pretty insulting that they now claim their decades-long "bigger is better" strategy was wrong and that it is really the distance to the screen that matters. I mean, really? It's just dumb.

    Remember when your parents said "don't sit too close to the TV"? They were right!
    Last edited by Brandon Eberhart; 03-17-2017 at 09:18 PM.
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  6. #6


    Quote Originally Posted by NoUDont View Post
    So u have been warned! i wonder if there is a way to find out which IMAX screens are legit?
    Yup, there is.

    Is it real IMAX? Find out here:

    https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/vi...9949999997&z=2

    Last edited by Brandon Eberhart; 03-17-2017 at 09:19 PM.
    Follow me on twitter and get free tales of horror, comedy and everything in between.

  7. #7


    I have a different opinion. But first, a fifty-year-old joke:
    Two old friends meet on the street. One says, “How’s your wife?”
    The other says, “Compared to what?”
    In my life I have seen 70mm movies, Superman, 2001, Apocalypse Now Spartacus and many others and they were terrific. The screens were larger than anything around today. They were longer, but not as tall.
    Those screens are gone, those theatres are gone, the last being the Ziegfeld in Manhattan.
    I had seen “original Imax” movies are bigger screen than are around today and they were fantastic. I miss them too!
    So compared to what is out there, the Imax movie theatre here (by Regal) is pretty good. That is, the screen is NOT as big as the 70mm or original Imax, but bigger than anything else available anywhere around me. And the surround sound is better in this theatre than in the other theatres, including their own RPX larger screen theatre.
    And something silly: Frankly, the audience in the Imax theatre is better behaved, quitter and perhaps a bit older. There is less movement, less IPhones, less talking.

    Oh, I have seen Dr. Strange, Logan, Man of Steel, Avengers, Avengers II, Captain America II and III, Batman vs. Superman, Star Trek Beyond, and a dozen other movies there.
    Barry
    Surround Pre-Amp
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  8. #8


    Quote Originally Posted by Lefisc View Post
    I have a different opinion. But first, a fifty-year-old joke:
    Two old friends meet on the street. One says, “How’s your wife?”
    The other says, “Compared to what?”
    In my life I have seen 70mm movies, Superman, 2001, Apocalypse Now Spartacus and many others and they were terrific. The screens were larger than anything around today. They were longer, but not as tall.
    Those screens are gone, those theatres are gone, the last being the Ziegfeld in Manhattan.
    I had seen “original Imax” movies are bigger screen than are around today and they were fantastic. I miss them too!
    So compared to what is out there, the Imax movie theatre here (by Regal) is pretty good. That is, the screen is NOT as big as the 70mm or original Imax, but bigger than anything else available anywhere around me. And the surround sound is better in this theatre than in the other theatres, including their own RPX larger screen theatre.
    And something silly: Frankly, the audience in the Imax theatre is better behaved, quitter and perhaps a bit older. There is less movement, less IPhones, less talking.

    Oh, I have seen Dr. Strange, Logan, Man of Steel, Avengers, Avengers II, Captain America II and III, Batman vs. Superman, Star Trek Beyond, and a dozen other movies there.
    So, Barry is saying that IMAX is more attractive to us old-timers who remember how great the format used to be.

  9. #9
    Senior Member David Vaughn's Avatar
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    When someone asks me how my wife is, I say "Why do you ask, do you want to buy her? It's an assumable loan!"
    David Vaughn
    Technical Writer/Blu-ray Reviewer
    Sound and Vision Magazine

  10. #10


    Quote Originally Posted by Brandon Eberhart View Post
    Yup, there is.

    Is it real IMAX? Find out here:

    https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/vi...9949999997&z=2

    Awesome! Thanks Brandon. I do have a real IMAX near me. Probably make those trips on my own...wife would roll eyes.

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