IMAX Boycott Brewing: Beware the Smaller Screen Scam


It seems we can’t go a day without another blogger-inspired boycott cropping up on the internet. Everyone’s got something to complain about, and as soon as they get frustrated enough, they run to their computer and try to get a few friends riled up as well. It seems that with the release of Star Trek in IMAX this past weekend, a dirty little secret was exposed with regards to the screens at certain Regal and AMC theatres, leading to some unsatisfied customers. Is it worth boycotting over? Well, let’s calmly check out the details and then you can decide for yourself.

When you go to see a movie at an IMAX theatre, the general understanding is that you’re going to see it on a big ass screen that is over 70 feet tall. The movie may or may not have footage that was actually shot to fit the entire screen (The Dark Knight is one of the few that did) and it may or may not be in 3-D, but either way, you’re getting a much bigger image that basically encompasses all of your peripheral vision. Whether or not we actually need a screen this big is up for debate, but the fact of the matter is, you are paying an extra $5 for that screen size, and IMAX is pushing this idea that it is the ultimate way to experience a major blockbuster film.

So what happens when go out of your way to find an IMAX theatre and pay an extra $5 for a ticket, only to watch the movie on a screen that is only slightly larger than usual? Well, if you’re comedian Aziz Ansari of Human Giant/Parks and Recreation fame, you get pretty pissed off, then go blog about it. It seems that IMAX has started slapping their name on theatres that simply have the IMAX digital system for high quality picture and sound. Which might be okay… if they weren’t charging extra money for it! Isn’t it bad enough that we’re already getting charged extra for 3-D movies (also arguably a scam)? In the end, I don’t know if I’d go so far as to call for a BOYCOTT, but you should definitely be aware of what you’re getting before you buy a ticket. Maybe some people do actually feel that the quality of The IMAX Experience&#174 is still worth the extra cash. What do you think, are IMAX theatres worth the extra money? Would you still pay extra without the bigger screen size?

  • Ian

    I’ve never seen an I-Max. I suppose for some things it would be great to see something huge like 2001: A Space Odyssey would be cool but picture size and image quality can sort of be relative to one’s proximity. You sit in the front row of a regular theatre and it pretty much encompasses all you see.

  • This is an issue. I’ve been to both and the smaller one is a gyp.

  • I’ve seen Star Trek, Watchmen, Eagle Eye, and The Day The Earth Stood Still in the smaller IMAX, and I’ve never been disappointed. The theater I go to charges $13, and the picture and sound are worth it for me.

  • I’m just learning of this boycott now. I went to Star Trek IMAX on Saturday and came away thinking IMAX sucked. Now I can see why– I was fooled into going to a faux-imax theater. Count me in for the boycott.

  • Nicole

    I have been to a “real” IMAX theater so I know the difference but I go to AMC IMAX due to the quality of the picture. It’s like regular TV vs. HD.

  • the 3-D thing is a concern, recently I was waiting on some friends before Crank 2 so I struck up a conversation with the manager about the additional $4 their Kerasotes theater was charging for 3D. he said the 3D extra fee has been changed every time a new 3D film has come out as Hollywood is trying to find the sweet spot to charge people. Its bullshit and is really an artificial increase in ticket prices – it is widely reported the push for 3D is more about recapturing the movie going experience to help cobat piracy and home theaters. there is no additional production costs (some minor projector upgrades). I feel there should be a organize nation wide protest to artificially gouging the people that support the film going experience.

  • Glendon

    I’ve been seeing IMAXized films at my local multiplex since 300. Beforehand I saw real IMAX movies at a museum. The two experiences are no where near the same, including screen size/shape, and picture quality. Still, the increase in AV quality over a regular screen is worth it to me.

  • I have seen film on all kinds of “formats.”

    35mm on a normal screen
    35mm blown up to real IMAX screen (Watchmen)
    IMAX on IMAX screen (parts of The Dark Night)
    Real-D 3D (Coraline)

    When Angels and Demons comes out I will get to see a
    35mm as a digital print via a Real-D projector…this is going to be basically the same thing Regal and AMC theatres are doing with “IMAX” different brand same concept.

    I work at a Kerasotes Theater so the “experience” is free, but I can see how it can be a slight scam. If I was paying the extra money it would be worth it…like Nicole from the above comment said (It’s like regular TV vs. HD.)

  • side note our theater (Kerasotes Theater) uses the Christie Digital Systems with conjunction with Real-D for our 3D movies, like said before different brand same concept.

  • IMAX isn’t all that great to begin with. When I went to the IMAX in London I wasn’t all that impressed. Also 3D is piss annoying, I would never pay extra for that.

  • Niklas

    Compared to IMAX in amusement parks etc, the IMAX in the regular theater sucked and not worth the extra $$ in my opinion.

  • swarez

    If all films went 3D then that would cut out the camcorder piracy.

  • Even the current generation of 3D is not worth a price increase. The technology (no matter how improved it is from 1980s incarnation) is still not up to snuff. It’s darker, suffers around the edges (especially IMAX 3D) and personally for me causes a pretty serious headache after about the 45 minute mark (Beowulf, Nightmare before Christmas, and Coraline all did this to me, and Nightmare was only retrofitted 3D and used sparingly!).

    I’ll be seeing UP and Avatar in 2D, and be pretty happy about it.

    3D is the silliest over-rated thing. Maybe in 2020 we’ll be talking, but in 2090, FAIL.

  • On the real IMAX, The Dark Knight segments were jaw droppingly good, well worth the $3 premium.

    The ‘digital Imax’ (or LieMax) uses a smaller screen because I don’t think the digital projector can blow up that big, and I also think Imax is looking to expand into more multiplexes, on the cheap. It’s not 70mm film.

    Lastly I saw THE MATRIX: Reloaded blown up from 35mm to 70mm and projected on a real IMAX screen and it was also a very solid experience. Because 35mm film is a chemical emulsion and analogue, it can actually blow up quite fine to 70mm and look great on the massive screen. However, flaws in the actors make-up and some lighting of scenes were drawn attention to when the audience was able to ‘look closer’ due to the 70mm format. So more care is required by the filmmakers when the expectation of expanding to 70mm for an IMAX presentation is in the works.

  • @swarez. Would it really cut the camcorder piracy? I mean theatre-cam 600Mb files look like such ass, and people seem to still watch them, what is a little stereoscopic blur in the image going to do to deter people.

    Ass is more or less the same as Pimply-Ass.

  • scoville

    IMAX is a brand name.

    I don’t get all bent out of shape because my Samsung phone doesn’t display as well as my Samsung HDTV.

  • Alien_Hybrid

    For the first time ever, I shelled out extra cash to see Star Trek in IMAX. I didn’t really know what the IMAX experience was but I was totally psyched by the large mega screen. I can tell you I would have been really piss off, annoyed and unimpressed if it had played on a smaller screen after being advertised as an IMAX “experience” movie. Theaters need to get real. Smaller screen IMAX movies should probably not be advertised as the genuine IMAX experience. It’s an outright rip off. I would not pay extra cash for that. It’s like paying for a GMC Yukon XL Denali and getting a Chevy Cobalt, then being told by the car dealer to suck it up because they’re both cars made by General Motors.

  • flargle

    @scoville. Yes IMAX is a brand name, like Samsung. The problem is that IMAX and the theater chains are using the same name for two different products(IMAX vs. IMAX Digital). When you bought your Samsung phone, the salesman didn’t call it an HDTV did he?

  • IMAX is a format, and a brand but now the 2 are being intermixed.

    If it’s not shot with IMAX format cameras its NOT going to be IMAX (ok, it could be CGI’d in IMAX), its not just the screen size, its the aspect ratio etc.

    Using the IMAX brand in the smaller theatres is wrong and plain daft as they are diluting their brand.

    On 3D – the 3D they are showing is not the latest and greatest technology; if you are in the UK and want to compare, try to see a 3D presentation at The Empire in Leicester Square; Blows IMAX 3D away (theres a reason they are hosting most of the 3D premieres this year). The technology is totally different with no fringing or ghosting.

    (Oh, ad btw, The Empire has a 58ft screen, but presents at the “proper” formats in digital….. so it its large and loud and you are in London…

  • Steve Harford

    Just echoing a lot of the comments here. I have been going to, ‘real’ IMAX for a long time now and it is by far the best film medium known to man and still way ahead of its time. It’s a great pity that IMAX don’t have the balls to see the project through and have dumbed-down their own vision. They are also betraying the great body of IMAX film producres and directors that have developed this fantastic medium to where it is today. Although it breaks my heart I say boycott LIEMAX and let them sink. Unfortunately the true IMAX GT theatres will sink into the mud to be fossiled under the weight of mediocrity that defines the start of this century. Thanks IMAX – nice one!

  • Empire56KWTHX

    Well I saw Star Trek at the famous Empire Leicester Square London in its screen 1 JBL 56KW THX sound system Dolby digital cinema.

    I won’t even go near an IMAX anymore with its wimpy 12KW. Even the Empire with its original JBL 13KW THX was in my face plenty of times in the past. The headroom at the Empire is far better than IMAX.

  • I think a lot of people like IMAX because the screen is so large that they can’t comprehend the whole picture. They interpret this sensation as being “immersive”.

    Let me ask you a question: When you go to the theater, do you sit in the first 2 rows (right up next to the screen), or do you try to sit near the middle of the theater where you can get optimum viewing (and surround sound) and can take in the whole picture?

    Just because something goes outside the bounds of your viewing area doesn’t make it “immersive”. If anything, it simply means that you’re too close to the screen.

    Do an experiment the next time you’re at a normal theater: Sit in the first two rows. Ta da! The IMAX Experience!

  • Steve Arpo

    I have seen AVATAR twice at the U.K’s Manchester film-based IMAX-GT theatre. The moving image niether filled the IMAX screen top to bottom OR left to right. Looking at the aspect ratio of the projected film frame it seems that it could have easily been blown up to fill virtually the entire screen and still preserved the original aspect ratio. Why was it projected in this way?

  • dipanjan dey

    i saw avatar today.the screen in kolkata is around 80 feet tall whereas the image fit only around 2/3rds of it.we saw half blood prince there where the movie covered the entire screen and now it got so is a lot larger than multiplex screens but that is not the point.we do pay the same price as for a normal 3D movie, only less.

    i wish that imax digital was never invented.hope that imax develops any thing that will be larger than this.

    in india,kolkata and mumbai have two 4k projectors and hyderabad has 2 k projectors.but still the 4 ks were small compared to the montrous screen.