Tech Talk

3 Ways to Maximize Your Movie Theater Experience

In our new column, tech guru Tshaka Armstrong offers advice on the latest trends and innovations that will impact your movie experience.

by | May 26, 2016 | Comments


When I was a kid, hitting the theater for a summer blockbuster was a big family event. My dad loved going to the movies and he made a “thing” of it — I still remember standing in line for about two hours to see Raiders of the Lost Ark. We’d go to the Cinerama Dome with its massive curved 86-foot screen, or another behemoth of its day, Grauman’s Chinese Theater, then we’d go out for dinner and ice cream. But just as ticket and concessions prices have gone up, consumer technology has also improved, allowing more people to afford relatively large screen TVs for home use and sapping ticket sales in the process. To counter the downturn, the film industry has worked hard to come up with innovations that might get more people in those stadium seats, trying everything from IMAX screens to dine-in theaters, recliners, rumble seats, and, of course, then there’s 3D. RealD 3D, IMAX Experience, Cinemark XD, D-Box seats — they’re all battling for your box office and concession dollars, but are these innovations really worth the extra dough?

As much as tickets and food cost these days, it really is all about the overall experience. I personally take a holistic approach to my moviegoing and consider the soundscape as important as the imagery, but for most people, a poorly projected screening is a dealbreaker. Fortunately, there are plenty of options for seeing those summer blockbusters. In fact, there might be too many options. Do you hit the regular showing, or see it in 3D? And will you be watching in standard RealD 3D, IMAX 3D, AMC Prime or Cinemark XD?



Let’s backtrack a bit here and put those questions aside for a moment. If you’re going to a movie shot in true IMAX — that means it was shot, at least in part, using IMAX cameras, on 70mm film, and is being projected on a full-size IMAX screen (97 feet wide by 76 feet high) — pay the extra cost if you have the money to spend. IMAX film is a large format with nearly unmatched clarity and quality of images, boasting even greater detail than 4K. Unfortunately, due to the size of the cameras, cost, and difficulty of post-production when compared to digital formats, 70mm/15p filmed IMAX production is rare, and so are screens around the country capable of projecting it. Most Hollywood films using IMAX cameras, such as Batman v. Superman, have only been shot partially in 70mm, often using 35mm film or a super high-end digital camera like the Red Epic. The last big-budget movies that included a significant portion of IMAX 70mm footage, approximately 70 minutes of it, was Interstellar. (Yes, Star Wars: The Force Awakens also includes IMAX footage, but only during the five-minute Millennium Falcon chase scene.)



At one point, 3D was all about making it look like things were flying out of the screen — and the overall effect felt like filmmakers were saying, “We need to make sure the audience knows we’re using 3D, so let’s throw as many things in their faces as possible.” Since those unsubtle days, 3D has come a long way. But between RealD 3D, IMAX 3D, AMC Prime, and Cinemark XD, how do you choose? Is it really worth it to pay extra for IMAX 3D or Cinemark XD over any other 3D or even the standard 2D format? I’d say, “Yes. Sometimes.”

Because of the way 3D is projected, it can actually be darker and not as crisp as the newer IMAX, which uses new laser projectors and Cinemark XD, which uses newer 4k DLP projectors — two of them per screen to be exact — as opposed to the older, single-projector setup. Last year Cinemark invited me to a tech preview to examine the newer XD technology. We watched the Jurassic World trailers and took a tour of their dual Barco DP4K-32B projectors — all of which was impressive. The images from the projectors were brighter (they actually hold a Guinness Book World Record for being the brightest), sharper, and presented better separation of the foreground and background in the 3D imagery. The leveled-up luminance has a powerful impact on imagery, particularly on dark scenes, and those with wide ranges of dark to light on screen at the same time. The difference was quite clear, and there’s actually a scientific reason for that — which has to do with heat, mirrors, and how light is projected through the prisms used in older digital projectors. Long story short, newer projectors are better at cooling and processing light!

There’s another angle to look at when viewing your movies on the larger screens, and that’s the difference between Cinemark XD, a true IMAX theater, and an “IMAX Experience” theater, which IMAX won’t officially comment on. The standard IMAX screen measures 72 feet wide by 53 feet high, going all the way up to 117 feet by 97 feet, and you’re paying for all of that extra screen real estate with your $15 ticket. The IMAX Experience screens will cost you the same amount of money, but don’t have a standard size, often playing on screens only slightly larger than your average movie screen — around 58 feet wide and 28 feet high. Where does the Cinemark XD large format experience fit in? Their wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling screens come in at 70 feet high. For me, the best money spent on 3D today is going to be Cinemark XD for its screen size and brightness, though IMAX 3D with Laser is a close second.

Once you’ve chosen to attend a 3D screening, how do you decide which films are worth seeing in that format? I tend to make my decision based on the scale of the experience. For a movie like The Jungle Book or The Hobbit, in which the environments play as big a role as the actual characters themselves, I’ll pay extra. The studio is spending big bucks to whisk you away to somewhere you’ve never been — they want to immerse you in the fantastical. A wonderful comedy like Barbershop: The Next Cut, on the other hand? Not so much. For a big blockbuster like Captain America: Civil War, I’ll pay extra because the filmmakers used newer technologies to better capture the large scope and scale of superhuman characters duking it out during a 15-minute fight scene, and it really pays off.

Money Monster, Central Intelligence, The Conjuring 2? Probably not worth the extra investment. Alice Through the Looking Glass, Warcraft, Star Wars: Rogue One, Finding Dory? Yes, and regarding the latter, since it’s an animated film, I’d probably be satisfied with single projected RealD 3D — those tend to be brighter than movies with real, human flesh tones and lighting in them.



(Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images)


This next one is pure gimmick, in my opinion. Some theaters include D-Box seats, which actually pivot and move and rumble along with the action in the movie you’re watching, and they’re only worth the ticket upgrade in very, very specific circumstances. I saw Deadpool while sitting in these seats and by the end of the film I used my favorite feature, which is the ability to control how active they are, in order to completely turn mine off. I could see seats like these being a good complement to a movie like Red Tails, Rush, or even space dogfight scenes in a Star Wars flick, but other than that, they can be a distraction. For example, every time there were gunshots in Deadpool, the seats rumbled — and these were handgun rounds, mind you. Not rocket launchers or grenades. For 99 percent of the movies you’ll see, I say skip the rumble seats.Now, while good eats aren’t technology, they certainly can add to the moviegoing experience, and theaters are beginning to adopt technology as a part of the dine-in format, so it’s worth a mention. Select AMC locations now allow you to go online and order food to your seats before you even show up for your movie — and I have it on good authority that they’re testing an app which will allow you to order from your seat at the theater. Is it worth it to hit one of the AMC Dine-In Theaters, or the popular Alamo Drafthouse if there’s one in your area? Maybe not for every movie you see, but absolutely on occasion. My wife and I have used dine-in theaters for our date nights from time to time.

The main factor in determining whether the upcharge is worth it will be — you guessed it — the food. For example, in my area, the iPic theaters have better Yelp! reviews for their food selection and quality than the AMC Dine-In theater. If you have a choice of dine-in theaters in your area, hit Yelp! before you decide which one’s getting your extra cash. On average, you’re going to pay a few dollars more than an IMAX ticket for the ability to have food — which isn’t included in the cost of admission — brought to your seat. The other upside to most of the dine-ins is adult beverages. Yes, you get recliners (in most of them), good food, and alcohol. Add that to the movie you’ve been so excited to see, and you have the makings of a highly enjoyable night out. At worst, if the movie doesn’t live up to the hype, you may not mind as much once you’ve had a drink or two.

And there you have it! I hope we’re able to make your next trip down the Tomatometer translate to a better theater-going experience overall. I have a family of five, including myself, and I know how expensive it can be, so being picky about which movies I’m paying $15 a head for has become an art. Do you have other film and TV tech related topics you’d like to see us cover? Burning questions which need answering? Leave a suggestion in the comments below and we’ll try to get to it in a future column!

Tshaka Armstrong is a huge nerd and activist who also writes for and his own site,, where he talks about food, bearding properly, tech, family, and equality.

Follow Tshaka on Twitter: @tshakaarmstrong

  • John Parker

    As a techy and movie nerd myself, I enjoyed the post. I too take my movie watching experience very seriously and equipment (sound, image, environment) are major factors I consider when going to see a movie. I have tried out most of what he references above and have my own favorites. I actually prefer the IMAX screen to XD screen. Maybe because in the local IMAX auditorium, though the screen is massive, the seating feels slightly more ‘up-front’ and involved. Also, I give an edge on sound to IMAX perhaps also due to auditorium arrangement.

    I have the same approach as the author as to what I choose to see in ‘normal’ screens and what I ante up for. Actually, as my home theater system has improved, I find I am mostly willing to wait for the Blu Ray release on many films. But I still regularly attend the theater to see ‘big’ films where the ‘big’ equipment is unparalleled by anything you can set up in the home. A couple movies that I felt could only be fully appreciated in theater were Gravity (in 3D though I generally avoid 3D any time I can), Interstellar, and The Dark Knight. Christopher Nolan is my favorite director going these days, probably because he loves 70mm and appreciates what big-screen 2D cinema can really offer.

    I also try to go to movies at strategic times when I think the fewest people will be present. First thing saturday morning, random tuesday nights, right before I think the movie will leave the marque screen as opposed to first weekend. Right near the top of my favorite movie watching experiences was when I was on a business trip in Wichita, KS and went to see The Dark Knight at the IMAX on a random weeknight. I actually got the entire auditorium to myself. Choice!

    • To this day, watching Blade on my home theater system for the first time was one of my favorite cinematic moments. I know, I’m easy, but the Blood Rave scene with well tuned, well placed, 5.1 sound was so much more enjoyable in that setting. I heard things in the soundtrack that I’d never heard in the theater.

      • John Parker

        It’s true, as a teenager, home systems were just becoming a thing, or perhaps I was just becoming aware of them and I was fascinated by them. The first time I recall hearing a subwoofer in a home setup was when I ditched an afternoon of school to go watch Twister at a friend’s house on a 2.1 system. A very modest system compared to even a basic system today but I was floored by the impact. Then the first time I recall surround sound was at another friend’s house who had a new Bose 5.1 and we watched Top Gun. The first time I heard the jet coming roaring from behind and right to left sent chills down my spine. These experiences have not been lost on my youth, I still get chills from great cinema experiences.

        • skwirrl

          Similar one for me was watching Platoon when it was pouring rain and hearing the rain all around me for the first time. Was like woaw.

  • Wicked Child

    Hateful Eight was NOT filmed in IMAX. It was filmed in Ultra Panavision 70MM. Both 70MM but very different formats. UP70 aspect ratio is ultra-wide 2.76:1, true IMAX 70MM is the opposite at 1.44:1. You wouldn’t want to watch an Ultra Panavision 70 movie on an IMAX screen. You’d want to find the widest screen you can, not the tallest (IMAX).

    • The sources I had, cited IMAX 70MM/15p, including a pretty solid wiki listing from IMAX themselves but after your note here, I googled the title and UP and you appear to be right. I think some of the confusion may be that according to some sources, there were some 70mm IMAX conversions (UP is an anamorphic format). Noted, and thanks for catching that! We’ll update.

      • Wicked Child

        No prob. I just remember because the UP was the impetus for his whole “roadshow” presentation back in December that they made such a big deal about. Definitely an interesting way to see a movie, but you had to cross your fingers that your theater/projectionist remember how to load a reel properly, because there were problems in some theaters reportedly. After all most multiplexes nowadays aren’t even set up to project film anymore.

  • Nilesh

    Very Good article. I am a movie nerd myself. You covered all aspects of movie watching experience except one. These days most of the viewers are more interested in food than movie. They will talk on cell phones disturbing others all the time. In recent years, I have stopped going into theaters for movies and I wait for movies to be available on DVDs. Someone should look into improving cell phone signal jammer for better movie experience lol


  • thedommer2000

    Star Wars was amazing in IMAX 3d. Dead pool wasn’t bad. Captain American Civic War was genuinely horrible. I had a headache for many hours after that movie. The fight scenes were a flickery blur. It was terrible in IMAX 3d LASER. Bizarre, since I thought they were using he latest technology. Its possible there was maybe a calibration issue in the theatre although on slow scenes the 3d looked great. Just fights (70% of the movie) was horrible and I could barely tell what was going on.

  • michaelant

    The dine-in theaters – are the seats far enough removed from other patrons that you don’t have to listen to the extra chomp chomp smack sounds through the whole flick? Depends on the movie, of course, how much relative quiet there is. A blast-em-up won’t pose much problem.

    I enjoyed the article, though. Look forward to the next one.

    • Hey! Thanks for the kind words Michael. My experience so far has been that the seats generally have adequate spacing between them to keep you from having to experience someone else’s meal. I’m particularly keen on this as “smacking” during a meal is one of my pet peeves.

      See ya next month! We have a fun one lined up for movie and TV lovers. 😉

  • Bobby Henderson

    The premium movie-going situation is a confusing, misleading mess for customers.

    There are few theaters left which are capable of showing true IMAX: 15-perf 65mm filmed imagery projected via 15-perf 70mm film prints. The overwhelming majority of IMAX branded screens have dual digital projectors showing 2K resolution imagery. IMAX has a new dual-4K laser projection system with 12 channel sound, but so far that very expensive system has been installed in only about a dozen theaters, some of which used to show 15/70mm IMAX film prints. The IMAX company has made it very difficult for movie-going customers to find out specifically which theaters have 70mm, 4K laser or the standard 2K xenon projection. Their web site says nothing about these details, implying all IMAX theaters deliver the same quality of experience. Customers are forced to find out the specifics elsewhere.

    Current Cinemark XD theaters only have xenon-based digital projectors. Cinemark’s web site says nothing about laser projection on its XD screens. If Cinemark is working on installing a dual laser projection system, great. But they need to be specific about which theaters feature it. Nearly all XD screens are equipped with Auro 11.1 capable sound systems. Unfortunately very few movies are mixed in Auro, making the format a waste of time. A couple XD screens are equipped with Dolby Atmos sound systems. Dolby Atmos is a far better next-gen object-based surround sound format. But it takes both the movie’s sound mixing crew and a properly configured theater to deliver Atmos done right.

    Dolby Cinema is currently the most promising premium theater concept. It features a pair of custom Christie 4K laser projectors capable of showing Dolby’s wide gamma Dolby Vision process. Dolby Cinema also features Dolby Atmos object based surround sound capability. This concept delivers the best quality digital picture, digital sound and 3D out of any premium big screen format. AMC Theaters has a long term deal to install 100 Dolby Cinema screens in North America; they’ve brought 19 screens online so far. There’s only a couple or so Dolby Cinema screens in operation in Europe. I can’t get an answer on whether other theater chains in the US will start installing Dolby Cinema screens.

    I’m a big fan of 70mm and did catch “The Hateful Eight” shown in Ultra Panavision 70mm. While I really liked the principal of QT filming “The Hateful Eight” in 70mm, his choice of the anamorphic 5-perf 65mm process was odd. Modern movie screens suck for that kind of ultra-wide 2.76:1 aspect ratio. More and more movie screens are “common width” -meaning even ‘scope movies in 2.39:1 aspect ratio are letter-boxed on the screen, just like the freaking TV set at home. “The Hateful Eight” was even more heavily letter-boxed.

    With all these goof ups, it’s hard to maintain enthusiasm for the movie-going experience. I appreciate the technical side of movie presentation, but expect it to be done right, not just “good enough.” Regular movie-goers are getting more turned on by recliners and dine-in options. But that’s not much different than eating on the couch and watching the same 2K quality movie on a 65″ HDTV.

    • John Parker

      You mention it is difficult to get spec information about individual cinemas – do you know where that info may be found? I’m curious about my local IMAX and XD screens.

      • Bobby Henderson

        You can’t get any specifics from IMAX’ web site or really any of the movie theater chain websites either when it comes to finding out if a theater is equipped for 2K digital, 4K digital laser, 15-perf 70mm or a combination of 2 of those processes. The Large Format Examiner web site,, has a pretty good list of info, although not all of it is complete. I’ll sometimes find press stories about an IMAX theater conversion, but there’s only a couple or so of those. IMAX’ new dual 4K laser system is getting installed at a very very slow pace and only in high profile locations like the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood or former 15/70mm IMAX locations like the one in Branson, Missouri. It will probably be a long time before the IMAX dual 4K laser system gets installed in mainstream multiplex sites running the dual 2K xenon system, and that’s if they ever do it at all.

        Regarding Cinemark XD, they have nothing on their web site mentioning laser. IMHO, they wasted a fortune installing Auro 11.1 sound systems on 100+ XD screens. Hardly any movies are mixed in that process, and it’s not nearly as good as Dolby Atmos. Worse yet, Auro gets rid of the back wall surround channels that basic 7.1 surround supports (Auro is basically just 5.1 surround with another layer of 5 channels above it and a ceiling layer. It’s surprising after spending that money they have money to blow on laser projection upgrades. The article’s writer talks about a dual 4K laser XD test screening, but I haven’t seen it mentioned as rolling out to actual movie theaters for customers to experience yet.

        • John Parker

          Thanks for the info – I live in the DFW area (Cinemark headquarters nearby) and I’m hoping that they may be testing a dual 4K setup somewhere in town.

          PS good commentary on the different HD tech and what you’re actually getting from your movie disc vs what is being hyped.

      • Here’s a pretty exhaustive list of IMAX theaters, globally: It differentiates between dual-projected, laser projected and 70MM.

        Here’s a listing of XD screens. They don’t mention which specific audio experiences those custom speakers/sound systems support though: When you go to the specific theaters, it appears it’ll show you which audio technology they use under the amenities tab and under the movie showtimes. I screencapped to show you an example of that, here:

        • Bobby Henderson

          Some movie theaters will sometimes, but not always, show sound format information, like that XD theater example showing a rare Dolby Atmos installation. However, much of that is up to the theater’s management to remember getting that info in there. I visit a Harkins theater in downtown Oklahoma City but have to call them half the time to confirm if the movie they’re showing on their big Cine Capri screen is in Dolby Atmos. Half the time they don’t bother to list it.

          The matter is far worse when it comes to 2K and 4K. I rarely ever see any movie theater state if a movie is being shown in 2K or 4K. I can only find out for sure by visiting a certain web site or two that lists details about the DCP distributed to theaters. Most movies are rendered only in 2K by the way -especially if they’re in 3D. Most d-cinema equipped theaters are limited to 2K projectors, including nearly all IMAX digital theaters. So even if a movie was rendered in 4K, most theaters can only show it in 2K.

          An even worse situation is developing in home theater regarding 4K, basically Fake-4K. A lot of early Ultra-HD Blu-ray movies, such as “Mad Max: Fury Road,” were originally produced in 2K. They’ve been “up-rezzed” to 4K, boasting HDR. I suppose the HDR part is supposed to make up for the fake 4K level of detail.

          • Oy! Let’s not even get into the marketing hype around true 4k, UHD, SUHD, UHD Premium and 4k HDR. Then we’d have to talk about uncompressed 4k streams, upscaling, blowing up pixels, etc. and refresh rates. Lol BTW, I hate the artificial look of digitally enhanced “refresh rates.” It’s like the digital image stabilization of the TV world.

            sidenote: While HDR is supposed to make up for fake detail, it really doesn’t but most people won’t notice the difference. HDR only expands the TV’s contrast ratio and color palette but doesn’t actually increase the number of pixels on-screen.

          • Bobby Henderson

            Here’s what I find funny about “HDR”: the electronics industry is selling it as offering deeper, more brilliant color as well as offering better contrast and more detail in shadow areas. That’s all fine and good. But have any of these industry people been watching digital-produced movies over the past decade? The color on many of these movies is seriously muted and even desaturated almost to the point of being a black and white movie. “Book of Eli” is kind of an extreme example. But lots of directors want to riff off guys like David Fincher, throwing dark images with a hint of urine wash onto the screen. That’s not exactly the kind of content that’s going to sell “HDR.” Animated movies, as well as heavily color graded shows like “Mad Max: Fury Road” seem like exceptions to that trend.

  • Ben Abkaryan

    If only Dolby would invest in some maskings for Scope films. I don’t care how dark those letterbox bars are, it still looks cheap and unrefined.

    • Bobby Henderson

      The letter-boxing of ‘scope films is a very widespread problem in the movie theater industry. This is all thanks to the philosophy of installing common width screens. Such movie screens make “flat” 1.85:1 ratio movies bigger than ‘scope movies. “Driving Miss Daisy” is bigger than “Die Hard.” The movie screen has been dumbed down to the style of a home TV screen. Stadium seating theater designs kicked off the common width screen trend in the 1990’s -at least some of those screens were built with vertical movable masking to hide the exposed screen.

      IMAX can be thanked for making it acceptable to show a ‘scope movie unmasked and letter-boxed on a taller screen. It was understandable to do this with early 15-perf 70mm “DMR” blow-ups like “The Matrix: Reloaded” and changing aspect ratio movies like “The Dark Knight.” IMAX carried over the no-masking, common width screen design into its regular HDTV resolution digital projection setups in multiplex theaters. Various theater chains, such as Cinemark, Regal, etc. developed their own IMAX wannabe premium concepts like XD, RPX, etc. Basically a bunch of meaningless alphabet soup. Many of these concepts feature taller, common width screens where 90% of the movies shown on them will be letter-boxed. It seems like the vast majority of movies are getting shot in ‘scope (even though many are just cropped to that in the video camera).

      Finally the designs of d-cinema cameras and projectors further encourage common width screen use. The sensors are usually either 1.77:1 or 1.9:1, forcing ‘scope to be letter-boxed on the sensor. No one is utilizing an anamorphic approach, even though 1.25x anamorphic lenses could yield a much better looking ‘scope image and use every pixel on the d-cinema projection sensor.

      • Ben Abkaryan

        Great response and summation of the problem Bobby. Some DP’s are using the Alexa or the Red open gate with either new or legacy scope lenses. This kind of mimics the dimensions of shooting 35mm Scope. Unfortunately, as you stated, Digital Cinema projects a cropped, flat image for Scope presentations.
        If we could get a nice 4k Scope DCP with a Scope projection lens throwing an image onto a 60-90 foot wide screen with proper maskings, that might get me excited about going to the movies again.
        The newly imaxed Chinese uses no maskings, and the Arclight ironically reduced the screen size at the Dome from 86 wide to 65 with their new laser projector.
        It’s a sad day when you have to explain what maskings were to younger friends.

        • Bobby Henderson

          Yeah, using anamorphic lenses on d-cinema cameras from Arri, Red and others serves no other purpose than applying a visual style to a digital image. The anamorphic look is very popular. Lots of feature movies utilize it. Even several TV series, such as “Fear the Walking Dead,” “American Crime” and season 2 of “True Detective” have been shot using anamorphic lenses even though the broadcast image is 16×9 HDTV.

          Camera makers are kind of going into a level of overkill, trying to outdo each other -despite the 4K resolution ceiling of digital cinema and home theater. Arri’s new Alexa65 has a large sensor the same size as a 5-perf 65mm film frame and a 6K open gate resolution. Red’s new “Weapon” camera sensor is the size of a VistaVision film frame (8-perf 35mm) and can capture 6K and 8K. Sony is working on a 8K CineAlta camera. A 70mm film print is really the only thing currently that can put that level of detail in front of a movie theater audience.

          I think it’s funny how the next “Star Wars” movie, “Rouge One” is being shot using Ultra Panavision 70 lenses. But they’re shooting the movie with the Arri Alexa 65. The movie will be cropped to standard 2.39:1 ‘scope width rather than be 2.76:1. They just need the UP70 lenses to apply an anamorphic look to the Alexa65 imagery.

          If the movie studios and movie theaters were willing to work together they could do ‘scope right in d-cinema. A 2K resolution movie would have to be rendered at 2560 X 1080 resolution, rather than the current 2048 X 858 setting that passes for 2K ‘scope. The 2560 X 1080 image would be squeezed to 2048 X 1080 (the full resolution of a 2K d-cinema projection sensor) and then unsqueezed during projection with a 1.25x anamorphic decompression lens. Rendering all those extra pixels and using a more complex lens setup would be more costly. But it would deliver significantly better 2K and 4K imagery than what’s available in the home. Right now commercial movie theaters don’t have much of a technological edge over home theater. The difference is negligible for most viewers.

  • jazzlr

    Perhaps you should have someone who’s qualified to write on this topic.

    (As you now know, H8 was filmed on regular 5/70mm, not IMAX 15/70, which is about twice as big: |

    But you’ve even more misinformation:

    IMAX 15/70 is almost fully phased out, the best native IMAX cameras are now indeed ALL DIGITAL, the film stock will soon stop production & be unavailble or in extremely limited supply, and the “real” IMAX process has been 100% digital for about 2 years.

    Even theaters that haven’t yet upgraded to IMAX digital will still be recieving 15/70 prints that were shot in digital.)

    This new system is also still NOT the “fake” IMAX of your local cinema. It’s a laser-based 4k+ system that meets or exceeds IMAX 15/70 quality. Smithsonian, for instance, just upgraded and it looks incredible.

    Admittedly, the IMAX corp. has deliberately sewn public confusion, but if you were qualified to write this column, you would be well ahead of that game. Email the folks at the Large Format Examiner or the Giant Screen Cinema Association to verify.

    • Hey jazzlr, thanks for reading and commenting! I agree with you that LFExaminer is a great resource. That said, let’s address your comments.

      “IMAX 15/70 is almost fully phased out, the best native IMAX cameras are now indeed ALL DIGITAL, the film stock will soon stop production & be unavailable or in extremely limited supply, and the “real” IMAX process has been 100% digital for about 2 years.”

      See my comment: “…70mm/15p filmed IMAX production is rare, and so are screens around the country capable of projecting it.” You explicated what I summarized.

      Let’s go deeper. Digital intermediary (DI) in general, and IMAX DMR which is a type of DI, allow for digital files to be transferred to film prints and vice versa. Processes which ensure that directors like Nolan and Tarantino who still like to play with film will be able to do so, conveniently. Again, this falls under the “rare” category and I’m sure directors with their level of clout will be able to get their hands on that extremely limited supply of film if they really want it, but my focus for this month’s column was about what is available today. It’s also worth noting that Tarantino went out of his way to make sure there were theaters that would be able to project his large format project, Hateful Eight. So, given that precedent, what is or isn’t being phased out CAN take a back seat to a director passionate about a particular standard and a studio with the pockets to back him or her.

      BTW, LFExaminer has a pretty solid list of theaters still capable of projecting 15/70 or 1570+D, here:

      I live in California and there are 8 of them with the majority being part of a regular theater chain. I know other states are not so lucky though.

      “Even theaters that haven’t yet upgraded to IMAX digital will still be receiving 15/70 prints that were shot in digital”

      And that may still provide a better cinematic experience than the smaller IMAX Experience or other smaller format screens/showings when those 15/70 prints were the end result of DMR whose source footage came from the RED Weapon (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is supposed to be 8k), or the new IMAX/ARRI digital camera, based on the Arri 65 which had a sensor capable of capturing only 6k. Let’s not forget though that 70mm negative is estimated to be around 12k and I’m sure there are film fanatics who’d spend the day arguing you down about the difference in quality of even 8k RAW files vs. 15/70 even though actual IMAX prints tend to range from 4 to 8k, according to IMAX. It’s the internet though and you know how people love to try to outnerd each other!

      “This new system is also still NOT the “fake” IMAX of your local cinema. It’s a laser-based 4k+ system that meets or exceeds IMAX 15/70 quality. Smithsonian, for instance, just upgraded and it looks incredible.”

      Ah yes, dual 4k laser projectors with the images superimposed over each other with a half pixel offset. That means it’s a perceived 4k+, unless they’re projecting 3d, in which case the pair are acting stereoscopically, so no more 4k+ as I understand it. That isn’t a native 4k+ image though. It’s denser visual information, not numerically greater visual information. Put another way, they’re only cloning the visual data, not actually doubling the visual data. Somewhat akin to the “visual smoothing” of digitally enhanced refresh rates I mentioned in another comment… it’s artifice, not native. That doesn’t make it inherently bad but FOR ME, I generally prefer native technologies over “enhancement” schemes. Optical zoom over digital zoom, optical image stabilization over digital image stabilization, 1080p over 1080i, true 120hz refresh rates over 60hz with “120hz motion blur gimmicks.”

      Glad you enjoyed the Smithsonian! I’ll have to check that out next time I’m in DC.

  • Javan Pohl

    Are all XD theaters using this projector set-up? If so, I’m going to one the next time I want to see something in 3D.

    BTW, it’s not how the 3D movies are projected that causes them to be less bright, it’s having to view the film through the glasses that diminishes the perceived brightness

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