Over the next couple weeks, a bunch of summer blockbuster films — namely Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince — are being released into IMAX theaters. But buyer beware: Before you plunk down close to twenty bucks for the larger format, keep in mind that a lot of these so-called IMAX auditoriums don’t have the gigantic, awe-inspiring screens that you’re used to.
I know what you think when you hear the word IMAX: a towering screen, between six and eight stories tall, that makes you go “oh, wow!” as soon as the movie starts playing. And, until recently, that’s what you were getting.
Now, however, the IMAX corporation has decided that the word “IMAX” refers to its superior projection and sound system, and not necessarily the big screen. A few new IMAX theaters have opened up under this principle, with slightly-larger-than-average screens in them, but nowhere near as big as the ones that are six stories tall. In general, these faux-IMAX screens are about a quarter of that size. The lovely projection and sound is nice, but, come on, when the Autobots get into it with the Deceptacons, you want the big freakin’ screen. The worst of it is that both the older, eight-story-tall IMAX screens and the newer, smaller IMAX screens charge exactly the same, increased price for tickets — and you get much, much more for your money on the older screens.
This subtle shift in IMAX screen has been going on for a while (anecdotal evidence among my friends says since at least 2005), but the problem got much wider attention when comedian/actor Aziz Ansari wrote an expletive-filled blog post about his experience at Star Trek. In his rant, he linked to this post in the LF Examiner (the “LF” stands for “Large Format”), which does a better job of explaining the differences between the two kinds of screens (using more sober language). That article includes a great to-scale graphic representation of the screen sizes, so you can see just how much of a ripoff the new IMAX screens are.
Okay, so here’s the important part: If you go to the IMAX Web site and search for all the theaters in the Hudson Valley, here is the list that’s returned to you:
Of those, ONLY the Regal New Roc City and the IMAX Theater at Palisades Center are TRUE, BIG-SCREEN IMAX theaters. The other two are phoney-baloney, and you don’t want to waste your money there. (Also, if you happen to be in New York City and are thinking about catching an IMAX move there, there is ONLY ONE real IMAX screen: The Lincoln Plaza multiplex on 68th and Broadway.)
Consider yourself warned.