Posted on Friday, May 22nd, 2009 by Peter Sciretta
Over the last couple weeks we’ve been reporting on the internet uproar over IMAX’s new digital theaters. To recap: IMAX has been retrofitting traditional movie theaters, moving the screen up a few rows, installing improved sound systems, but the result is nothing near that of a traditional 70mm IMAX theater. The screen size is tiny in comparison (see image above). In fact, the two 2K-resolution Christie projector set-up is said to not look anywhere as good as the Sony 4K digital projectors which are now being installed in normal AMC and Regal theaters nationwide.
Variety has a good article on how IMAX plans to respond to the situation. Imax CEO Rich Gelfond says that they “are going to do something (about the complaints)” but he doesn’t know what. He then goes on to explain that only 2% of moviegoers are,(my wording follows, not his) smart enough to realize that the new IMAX Digital screens are much smaller in size and lower resolution than the traditional 70mm IMAX screens. According to the company, their advance market research said only 2% of customers felt the new Imax screens weren’t a comparable experience to the old.
Gelfond insists that the complaints are a “product of our success because as we attract more customers that other 2% is more and more people.” Gelfond is right about one thing, the complaints are definitely a product of their success. People love seeing movies on the gigantic IMAX screen. And as more people get “swindled” into paying the same ticket price for a cheap digital imitation, more and more moviegoers will become disillusioned with the IMAX name brand.
Can IMAX save their name brand? Again, I think honesty is key. IMAX needs to openly disclose the information to the consumers, giving the digital theatres a name brand of their own. Something open and honest like “IMAX Mini Digital Theatres.” Charge $13 instead of $15. It’s not the same experience, it shouldn’t be the same price.