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May 13, 2009: "The Great IMAX Scam" 
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Post May 13, 2009: "The Great IMAX Scam"
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Wed May 13, 2009 3:58 pm
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Post Re: May 13, 2009: "The Great IMAX Scam"
I saw a quote from the head of IMAX saying that the IMAX experience was how it looked, not how big the screen is. Too bad, everyone else associates IMAX with a giant screen.


Wed May 13, 2009 4:13 pm
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Post Re: May 13, 2009: "The Great IMAX Scam"
Patrick wrote:
I saw a quote from the head of IMAX saying that the IMAX experience was how it looked, not how big the screen is. Too bad, everyone else associates IMAX with a giant screen.


So he's going to argue that the IMAX digital projectors look as good as 70mm film, which is what the old-school IMAXes have?

Truth be told, I haven't noticed any improvement in visual clarity in any of these new IMAX theaters.

Sounds like someone who's doing damage control.


Wed May 13, 2009 4:19 pm
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Post Re: May 13, 2009: "The Great IMAX Scam"
You are not the first to write about this today! News of the scam has already hit the social media-sphere. Are you responding to these posts or is this a coincidence? (Just curious)

http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2009 ... f=93568166


Wed May 13, 2009 4:24 pm
Post Re: May 13, 2009: "The Great IMAX Scam"
Size isn't the only thing which matters here.

I attended a packed "fake IMAX" screening of WATCHMEN on opening weekend and was forced to sit in the front row. The fact that front row offered an acceptable field of vision was the first indicator that this wasn't the IMAX I remembered from The Baltimore Science Center.

I've only seen one non-edutainment feature at The Science Center and it was The Wachowskis' SPEED RACER. Whatever else you can say about the film, it's certainly a gorgeous, candy-colored, ornate roller coaster ride of kooky, post-Coen Brothers corniness that looked and sounded great in a proper IMAX theater. It was a kind of first date movie for my now long-term girlfriend. I was a little bit worried about taking her to SPEED RACER, but my fears were put to rest when she leaned over during the MATRIX-for-kids kung-fu battle and whispered, "This movie is fucking awesome!"

We haven't revisited it since and I don't plan to until we have that 1080p in place and we're watching it on Blu-Ray. I can assure you that in this instance presentation was damn near everything.

What was most remarkable was how digital construct of a movie like SPEED RACER could look so gorgeously FILM-like when shown at its best advantage. For a movie that was mostly rendered in a computer, The Wachowskis and their army of technicians did an amazing job of making it look like it was shot on good old-fashioned film. At least, that's how it plays when projected from IMAX film stock.

WATCHMEN had barely even started before I noticed that something was rotten in Denmark. Why, if I was watching something projected from the finest film process available, was I looking an image that was lousy with what looked like pixelated digital noise!? I didn't have long to wait for my answer. Just before the feature started, there was an intro bumper which boasted both, the IMAX and DLP logos.

Aye, there's the rub! If something is DLP then it almost certainly isn't IMAX!! It isn't just the theater format. It's the film stock!

So, for the next three hours, I watched the WATCHMEN cavorting around on what felt like the biggest computer monitor I had ever seen. Yes, some scenes looked fantastic (with the shifting expressions on Rohrshach's ink blot face being clearly discernible), but other visuals, particularly of mostly or completely digital panoramas looked like total garbage. I'm not sure if the figures of Laurie and Dr. Manhattan descending Dr. M's fortress of solitude were digital stand-ins, but they sure looked like it. In fact, every wide shot of Manhattan's Martian retreat looked like I was watching it on a low-res computer monitor.

Look, I don't mind if IMAX feels the need to license their name out to a compromised version of their signature product, but an IMAX presentation shouldn't be visually inferior to its 35 mm counterpart.

And besides, the IMAX version has a rushed card shuffle of an alternative end credits sequence which bludgeons us with the unfortunate My Chemical Romance tune without the sly easter egg of a Leonard Cohen song ("First, We Take Manhattan") that we get on the 35mm end credit crawl which feels like a nice, sneaky personal touch from a director who clearly approached this project as a labor of love. Now, that's a real shame!


Wed May 13, 2009 4:31 pm
Post Re: May 13, 2009: "The Great IMAX Scam"
When I saw Watchmen at the "brand new" local IMAX, I was beyond thrilled. IMAX? In Henderson? This is amazing. Previously, there were only two (old-school) IMAX theaters in town. One was the infamous (and now long gone) IMAX theater in the Luxor hotel that was shoehorned in the pyramid structure not by decreasing the screen size, but by raking the seating as nearly vertical. The real catch was that the seating arrangement was so dangerous (every row was practically a balcony), that they had a lap bar come down on the viewer and trap them in their seat for the entire film. It's no wonder that they closed up seeing as IMAX is now showing feature films as opposed to 40-minute nature films. Still, there was a feeling of awe and wonder everytime you went, the sound system helped, but obviously the biggest factor was the gigantic screen.

So, we stroll into the theater to notice that the screen is big, yes. Bigger than the one next door? Obviously. But is it IMAX big? Doesn't seem like it. I didn't want to object, since my friends might not believe me, but I couldn't help but feel that this wasn't the same IMAX I had encountered before. And what would you have it after buying advance tickets to an IMAX screening of Star Trek at the same theater...I hear about this controversy.

This is honestly sad, and the five dollar surcharge makes things even worse. I was really hoping that an IMAX just ten minutes down the road would mean I could partake once again upon seeing that incredibly huge picture totally enveloping my field of vision, one of my all-time favorite childhood memories, and do it with convenience. Turns out IMAX and Regal are merely ripping me off. :(


Wed May 13, 2009 4:44 pm
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Post Re: May 13, 2009: "The Great IMAX Scam"
I guess I must be pretty naive. We don't have any IMAX multiplexes yet, but over the years I've seen a number of IMAX films at museums. Silly me, I thought that all IMAX's had to be the same. I don't mind paying a surcharge for the kind of experience I've had at genuine IMAX theaters, but I have no interest in paying a surcharge for some multiplex screen on steroids.


Wed May 13, 2009 4:51 pm
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Post Re: May 13, 2009: "The Great IMAX Scam"
Okay, I'm legally blind. But I've seen REAL IMAX back in Indianapolis when I was a kid, and I am pretty confident that if I paid $15 for a ticket I'd damned well notice that the screen's a quarter the size of what I'd seen before. And I know I'd immediately walk out for a refund to see it in a regular theater with no surcharge at that point. Anyone who can sit through the 25%-sized IMAX and not know the difference never saw a real IMAX before. Or they'd be bothered too. Maybe that's what Regal and IMAX are counting on, that so few people HAVE experienced the real thing that they won't even notice. And it seems to be working. But will articles like this expose the truth and bring about a wide enough social commentary to change things? It worked with New Coke, where a vocal minority were able to overwhelm in three short months the overriding success of the new product (people were buying it and liking it everywhere but in the deep south, where Coke had been born). But via social peer pressure, once a few got loud enough saying it tasted "bad," more and more people decided they hated it. Maybe the more people bitch about the new IMAX, the more likely a warning like James suggested would become. Or at least they might cut the price down a few bucks.


Wed May 13, 2009 8:13 pm
Post Re: May 13, 2009: "The Great IMAX Scam"
I found an IMAX promo card that I picked up when I went to see Watchmen:
Image

Image

Notice how they tiptoe around the issue. Normal IMAX theaters would boast about a 70-foot screen. The card never truly says anything about the screen, but about "custom theaters" and an "immersive experience", which is really only capable of a 70-foot screen. Technically, this denies that any false advertising has been truly made, but by calling it actual IMAX, you still run into a lot of trouble.


Wed May 13, 2009 9:30 pm
Post Re: May 13, 2009: "The Great IMAX Scam"
I am glad that this article came out .

I also went to see the Star Trek in the Imax Amsterdam and was wondering if my expectations had just got too big or the screen was just looking a bit smaller than usual ( or not as immersive ) ..

Anyway , I was a bit disappointed as I sat throughout the whole movie thinking about the screen size and not the movie..


Thu May 14, 2009 2:57 am
Post Re: May 13, 2009: "The Great IMAX Scam"
Ant wrote:
I am glad that this article came out .

I also went to see the Star Trek in the Imax Amsterdam and was wondering if my expectations had just got too big or the screen was just looking a bit smaller than usual ( or not as immersive ) ..

Anyway , I was a bit disappointed as I sat throughout the whole movie thinking about the screen size and not the movie..
Same here for the Amsterdam one, except with me it was Watchmen. I still enjoyed the film (it was my second time watching it), but I had been to many real IMAX theatres previously (in the US and in London) to know that this just wasn't right. Yes, the screen was slightly bigger, and the sound was much louder (one thing I miss about theatres in the US was the sound, it's always so quiet in Europe). But this wasn't true IMAX. You can imagine how dumbfounded I was when I first walked into the theater to see the normal seating arrangement (the fact that I was a few hours out of a coffeeshop didn't help either.)


Thu May 14, 2009 3:08 am
Post Re: May 13, 2009: "The Great IMAX Scam"
This is very interesting. History seems to repeat itself. I recently watched a documentary on Cinerama, a 1950ies/1960ies precursor to IMAX, which required special cinemas, because of a giant curved screen made of strips. A true Cinerama featured would be filmed with a special camera with three lenses in order to allow for a "tryptich" effect. Most Cinerama features were travelogues featuring rollercoasters, canoes going down the Grand Canyon etc. Only two feature films were ever made in true Cinerama. However, a lot of feature films, such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, were released in Cinerama versions, although they had been filmed traditionally and were only converted for Cinerama cinemas.

Things haven't changed much since then, have they?


Thu May 14, 2009 3:27 am
Post Re: May 13, 2009: "The Great IMAX Scam"
Unke wrote:
Only two feature films were ever made in true Cinerama.


I know of How the West Was Won. What was the other?

EDIT: I should have checked out the trivia on IMDB. According to them the other one was The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm.


Thu May 14, 2009 5:39 am
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Post Re: May 13, 2009: "The Great IMAX Scam"
I may be wrong, but I seem to remember that It's a Mad, Mad, Mad World was also a Cinerama film.


Thu May 14, 2009 6:52 am
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Post Re: May 13, 2009: "The Great IMAX Scam"
DannyF wrote:
You are not the first to write about this today! News of the scam has already hit the social media-sphere. Are you responding to these posts or is this a coincidence? (Just curious)

http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2009 ... f=93568166


The issue came to my attention over the weekend, when someone e-mailed me after seeing Star Trek at an AMC IMAX and saying how disappointing it was. On Monday, I stopped by the AMC to talk to the manager, then wrote the ReelThoughts. I was unaware that this has become a hot-button issue; the only other place I had seen anything written about it was in some of the "letters to the editor" at rogerebert.com.


Thu May 14, 2009 9:09 am
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Post Re: May 13, 2009: "The Great IMAX Scam"
slksc wrote:
I guess I must be pretty naive. We don't have any IMAX multiplexes yet, but over the years I've seen a number of IMAX films at museums. Silly me, I thought that all IMAX's had to be the same. I don't mind paying a surcharge for the kind of experience I've had at genuine IMAX theaters, but I have no interest in paying a surcharge for some multiplex screen on steroids.


This is the root of the problem - that IMAX is effectively tricking everyone into believing that the experience they will have at the new multiplex theaters is the same one that is/was possible at the old-school IMAX theaters. That's why I think there should be some kind of notification in theaters with the multiplex IMAX auditoriums stating clearly that the presentation is digital and the screen is smaller.


Thu May 14, 2009 9:15 am
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Post Re: May 13, 2009: "The Great IMAX Scam"
slksc wrote:
I may be wrong, but I seem to remember that It's a Mad, Mad, Mad World was also a Cinerama film.


I think that was one of the so-called Cinerama films, which were not filmed with a three lens camera, i.e. they were not true Cinerama features. The documentary named How the West was won and the Brothers Grimm film, M.I.K.e. mentioned, as the only two three lens Cinerama movies


Thu May 14, 2009 9:19 am
Post Re: May 13, 2009: "The Great IMAX Scam"
I had been thinking about shelling out those four extra dollars this weekend to see "Star Trek" in IMAX.

Thanks for the heads up, James!


Thu May 14, 2009 10:27 am
Post Re: May 13, 2009: "The Great IMAX Scam"
I almost want to pay the extra money to go see the IMAX version of Star Trek now just to see what the hubbub is all about...I have been to a few real IMAX shows and would love to see the difference. Sounds like a huge scam indeed though.


Thu May 14, 2009 11:01 am
Post Re: May 13, 2009: "The Great IMAX Scam"
I live in seattle and saw it on the legitimate IMAX screen at the pacific science center... the biggest scam is that somehow "digital" is better than good old analouge 70mm film stock. IMAX filmed natively in IMAX is unbelievable, part of made last summer's batman so much better. I'm intrigued to read that more movies are going to have select scenes in the format.


Thu May 14, 2009 11:07 am
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