Before I begin this, let me relate to you my relationship with IMAX. I’m originally from Huntsville, Alabama. And in Huntsville we have the Space and Rocket Center. Which is quite swank and you should visit if you haven’t. In the Center is the Spacedome, an IMAX screen. It opened in 1982, so I would go see movies there–space docu movies is pretty much all we had, but still. They were ginormous and awesome and even bigger because I was a kid, so everything was bigger back then.
I even–perhaps this is during my lamentable stint at Space Camp (the actual thing, not the movie version)–learned about where to sit to get the best effect, i.e. right by the “Doghouse,” or the projector that sat in the middle of the seating area. And that made it all even cooler.
Still, I figure if any movie deserved the IMAX 3D treatment, it would be Avatar, which is the best cinematic visual feast in recent memory. So we made the trek across the state to the cinema.
And here is my shocking revelation and another sign that my childhood is dead. (Another significant sign being I realize now that when Stan Lee proclaims that action is mile a minute, that just means it’s going 60mph, which would get you run over on I-285.) What I discovered is that IMAX is just a big screen. That’s all. A big screen. But what about the 3D? Well, this wasn’t digital 3D–at least not that I could tell–so several times during the film, since this was using the linear lenses, I would catch the two images instead of the 3D. I know that’s because I was tilting my head but with a screen that size, it’s hard not to. And because it wasn’t digital, it just wasn’t as crisp and the 3D not as striking as when I saw it the first time.
Now there may be digital versions of IMAX 3D…it wasn’t clear from what I could find online–and it’s bad enough that you can’t seem to find anything that tells you the actual screen size of the cinema. Seeing as how a bigass screen is the main draw, you’d think bragging about the size would be warranted. Maybe there’s a moratorium so that nobody can find out how small the smaller screens are. After the Spacedome, I’d have scoffed at IMAX being regular cinema-sized.
I realize I’m probably in the minority on this–I seem to be doing that a lot these days–since the screening we went to, 11:50am on a Saturday, was pretty much full and the film’s been out for weeks. Some people just like the size of it. Me, I’d take a decently calibrated digital screening on a smaller screen at a closer cinema. The experience, for me anyway, is a better one. And hell, when I finally get a big enough LED HD TV, I may never leave the house again.
So fare thee well, IMAX. We’ll always have those moments of triumph in the 80s when I managed to sit next to the Doghouse.