I think that most people associate the brand name IMAX with one thing alone: a really big-ass movie screen. When I say big-ass I mean it envelops your entire field of vision. This is they way they show it on their website. It's so big, you're supposed to write it all in capital letters. Every IMAX i've ever been to has been has held true to this formula, until now. Recently IMAX has decided to slap its brand name on much smaller sized screens.
Previously, the only movies I'd ever seen in IMAX before were documentaries at museums. I'd never really felt compelled to pay the extra money to see a hollywood movie on an obscenely large screen. My friends who have been to see movies in IMAX before have described it as not being any better, just bigger. The one exception was my cousin who saw Speed Racer in IMAX (an underrated movie, I might ad) who pointed out that it's such a visual spectacle, that seeing it in such a large format only makes it better.
Recently the AMC at Newport on the Levee added an IMAX to its lineup, so I figured I'd try it out since I had been meaning to see Monsters vs. Aliens in 3D, but hadn't gotten around to it. It cost about $15 for one ticket, but I figured for something that promised complete immersion into the movie, it was worth it this one time.
I had assumed that what they did was just re-open the IMAX theatre that was built when Newport first opened up and that had closed shortly after. (At the time, it was primarily showing the sort of documentaries you see at museums). Instead, I was directed upstairs where the rest of the cinemas were. Now I was assuming that they had remodeled one of the existing theatre houses so that it now contained a supermassive movie screen. I walked into the door marked IMAX and was treated with... a completely ordinary sized screen. Granted it was the biggest screen at the AMC, but as best I could tell it was the exact same size as it was before they put the name IMAX on the door. They just charged more for you to get in. In fact, I think the old Lowes that used to be off Montgomery Road in Kenwood might have had larger screens.
As I took my seat, fuming about the fact that I had dropped $15 to see a movie on what was clearly not an IMAX, I remembered this article on the IMDB about how IMAX was announcing plans to expand by turning existing theatres into IMAXes. According to the article, owners of the old IMAX theatres were upset because they feared the brand would be weakened if people walked into a theatre expecting a 4800 square foot screen, and instead got half of that. IMAX's co-CEO argued that the brand IMAX refers to the whole theatre experience, not just a big screen.
Nope, I'm with the theatre owners. Like I said before, IMAX to me means one thing alone: a really big-ass screen. Since there's no brand distinction between the old massive IMAXes and these new mini-IMAXes, I expect a lot of people are going to be up in arms when they walk in and see a screen that is completely ordinary. And considering that we're in a recession I doubt there are many people who are going to $5 extra per ticket for a sound system that's only noticeably better if you're a complete cinephile.
I also don't see people taking the effort to call ahead to find out if their local cinema has one of the big IMAXes or one of the baby ones. This is assuming of course that they even know these new downsized IMAXes exist out there. What I do see happening is a lot of people shelling out the extra money to see the first wave of summer blockbusters, realizing they've been had and not going back.