Aziz Ansari Starts a War with IMAX

     May 12, 2009

Written by Steve ‘Frosty’ Weintraub

Comedian Aziz Ansari went to see “Star Trek: The IMAX Experience” at the AMC Theatre in Burbank yesterday. While he gladly paid the extra five dollars to see the movie in IMAX, he was shocked to discover something many of us have known for a long time – digital IMAX is not the same as regular IMAX. He was actually so angry about the experience that he wrote about it on his blog, and he started Tweeting to suggest everyone boycott IMAX and the theaters that are showing it.

Now here’s what you need to know if you aren’t familiar with IMAX and their new digital venture.

IMAX still shows plenty of movies on film. If you’re going to an IMAX theater that’s been around for awhile, one that looks huge as you walk in, it’s film. If the theater is at a museum….it’s film.

If, however, you go to your local movie theater and they say they have IMAX and they’ve recently installed the format, it’s the new digital IMAX.

If you walk into a theater and it only looks slightly bigger -or the same- as a normal theater…it’s digital IMAX.

And that’s the problem.

Make no mistake, I love IMAX.

“The Dark Knight” in IMAX was the best movie experience I’ve had in a theater this decade. Christopher Nolan showed the world what can be done when you film a Hollywood blockbuster with the amazing IMAX cameras. It was so amazing, director Michael Bay shot some of “Transformers Revenge of the Fallen” the same way.

But, as much as I love IMAX, I am just like my peers when I say the new digital IMAX experience is not the same. At all.

I’ve seen movies in digital IMAX. As a huge fan of the company and their product, I can not endorse paying an extra five dollars to see it. The fact is…it’s just not worth it.

But that’s not the worst part.

The worst is they are destroying their brand name with this cheap imitation format.

I actually know a few of the people at IMAX and months ago I warned them about this. I specifically said they needed to change the name of the digital IMAX theaters to reflect how it’s a different presentation.

I suggested they call it IMAX-D.

That way they could still say IMAX in the name, but people would know it’s a digital theater and one that isn’t film.

Look, I know why they don’t want to distinguish between the two formats. I get it. It’s called money.

The IMAX format has recently begun to take off. More and more people have discovered how amazing the large screen format is and they want to see their movies that way. The problem is, it’s too expensive to build a new movie theater to show just IMAX movies, so the only way to make more IMAX screens is to change existing theaters into an IMAX digital screen.

Also, a digital screen is MUCH cheaper to run, and they can do special events and show older movies for a one time only screening.

But it really isn’t the same. And the company and all the theaters need to change the name to reflect that.

The thing is, technology is constantly changing and being upgraded. Every year digital theaters get better and better. Eventually digital IMAX will look the same as film. But it’s not today. And until it does, it’s not fair to charge a consumer extra money for an inferior product.

Finally, I’m not the only one writing about this issue. Articles are also on Slashfilm, CHUD, and AICN.

a real IMAX theater

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