Aziz Ansari is an actor, comedian and blogger. This week he brought something to light that (a) is potentially going to sorta screw IMAX, AMC and Regal Cinemas and (b) we noticed when we went to see Star Trek last week. So if you haven’t heard of this situation or have heard it but haven’t been to an IMAX theatre run by AMC or Regal, read on and believe.
Ansari’s argument, which we second, is that the new IMAX screens available at AMC and Regal theaters aren’t legitimate IMAX sized screens. In fact they’re significantly smaller. The image above says it all.
Anyway, last week I went to the theater, paid $17.50 (an additional $5 for the IMAX experience) and sat down to a screen that was so obviously not as big as I was expecting (this was at the AMC in Times Square) that I had a conversation about it with two of my nerd friends. One of them insisted that we go to the IMAX so we could get the full experience. I argued that it’s actually harder to see everything on the IMAX since it’s so friggin huge, but in the end he convinced me to just do it.
So we’re sitting there talking about how small this screen looks when the guy who dragged me to the IMAX notes that oh we’re just sitting really far back. And then it dawned on me — most true IMAX theaters are really steep which effectively brings the massive beast a lot closer to the viewer. So not only was this screen small but it was also not as close — I wasn’t happy, but whatever — the movie started and that was that.
Well now this whole thing with Ansari has caused quite a ruckus and I’m sorta miffed about the false advertising aspect of this. The point is that IMAX to me is about the screen size and AMC didn’t deliver. Turns out the company (IMAX) didn’t want to start building stand alone theaters like they used to and so they made an agreement with AMC/Regal that they would provide the screens and other equipment if the theater owners would pay to rebuild the space. Well all that really required the theaters to do was remove some seats, according to Gizmodo.
Anyway IMAX people have said in the past the the IMAX experience is all about the sound too, not just the screen — which is bullshit and is really just another case of a brand not understanding that their product is owned by consumers and those folks are who gets to decide what IMAX is all about. The friggin screen, that’s what.
Bottom line is the only reason my nerd-homies and I dropped an additional $5 more on the already asinine $12.50 tickets was so we could be totally immersed in the experience. But instead we were totally able to focus on the entire movie and that’s not at all what we wanted. When you’ve just jumped out of a spaceship and are rocketing toward earth from space with little more than a parachute to stop you from splattering all over the ground, you expect the visual experience to be a little shaky. But at the AMC in TS I was able to see the whole thing — meaning I was an observer rather than a participant. The IMAX brand let me down because what their big screens do is make you an active consumer rather than a passive one — and that’s why it’s (normally) worth the extra scratch. Screw the sound system — years of concert going have ruined my ears anyway. So long as it’s loud I don’t really care but visually — well I wanted to be in it. Keyword: wanted.
The movie still rocked though.
Note: I realize I’m presenting some reverse logic in this piece, namely that I was actually able to see the movie without missing too much of the superfluous stuff. I’m just trying to hit on what IMAX means to me as a consumer and how these smaller screens can’t hope to mimic what their big brothers are so famous for doing — putting you in the movie.