Even though it will be awhile before we get a film that is partially filmed in the IMAX 70mm format I thought it would a good time to explore the idea if you are getting rip off when you pay to see a movie in “IMAX”.
Now you may be thinking to yourself, “Wait a minute, you said it be awhile before we see a movie that is filmed in the IMAX format, how can that be when almost every major Hollywood film is advertising to see it in IMAX”. Well here lays the problem. Many of the films you have seen or are going to see in IMAX are not the real IMAX 70mm 15 perf (meaning each frame is 15 perforations wide) format, they have been up-converted. Now keep in mind that 70 mm 15 perf is almost 9 times the size of 35mm film. Now I won’t get into the debate whether this is better or worse than the traditional 35mm, rather let’s stay with the facts.
But suppose you are going to see a movie which has been filmed on the real IMAX format for example the upcoming Christopher Nolan’s film Interstellar (Nov 7, 2014). Are you guaranteed to see it the way Nolan filmed it when you go to the IMAX theater? More than likely not. Here’s the reason the odds are not in your favor.
A while ago I went to see a movie in IMAX, as I walked in I told myself something doesn’t seem right. Thinking that maybe my perception of what IMAX was supposed to be was off because I hadn’t been to the IMAX for some time I brushed it off. When I got home it was still plaguing me, so being how I am I starting researching. I found out I was right. Something was different and it was a big difference. Look at the image below.
When Hollywood starting playing around in the early 2000’s with up-converting films and showing them in IMAX theaters with IMAX prices they were seeing profits. The problem was demand was going up but supply could not be meant because the size needed to facilitate the equipment and screen is too expensive to bring to the masses. So in 2008 the solution came out, the new IMAX Digital theater. The 70mm projector has been replaced with two Christie 2K. The two 2k images are projected over each other. The resolution is estimated to be about 6,120 × 4,500 actually discernible pixels. The benefit of this new system is you can bring it into existing theaters. They move the screen about 30 ft closer to cover more space. Supposedly you perceive it 75 feet wider than before, but this is not the true IMAX experience. Another reason it not the real experience, aspect ratio. The aspect ratio of IMAX digital is 1.9:1 which is very close to the common 1.85:1 ratio, true IMAX is 1.44:1.
So when you go down to your local theater there must be a sign or symbol they use to distinguish what format of IMAX you be watching right? Wrong. There is no way. Only websites such as here will help you. Look for the theaters with 1570 meaning 15 perf and 70mm. As you go through the list you’ll notice they are hard and few to come by.
So brings up the issue, are you getting rip off? Depends, if you are educated and knowingly see a movie that has been up-converted and watching on the new IMAX digital that was a choice you made, but if you don’t know and are still paying the same price as the full experience that’s not fair. Because keep in mind you pay for IMAX no matter what type of IMAX you are seeing, it’s all the same price. So hopefully this will help you as the latest movies come your way. With this new knowledge at least you know if you are getting enough bang for your buck.