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» Cinematour Forum   » Cinemas and Theatres   » Theater Review: The Imax "Lite" Experience

Author Topic: Theater Review: The Imax "Lite" Experience
Dan Roben

Posts: 155
From: Seattle, WA
Registered: May 2003

 - posted May 20, 2009 11:22 PM      Profile for Dan Roben           Edit/Delete Post 
Where: Regal's Thornton Place Imax Stadium 14, Seattle WA

When: Wednesday, May 20

What: The Imax presentation of "The Dark Knight", 9:25 PM show

How very thoughtful of Regal (really!). As is typical for the pre-opening of one of their new megaplexes, Regal booked a bunch of fourth-run, already-released-on-DVD movies for three days, charging a couple of bucks for a ticket, the same price for a small popcorn and "small" Coke (if one can call 32 ounces "small," which apparently Regal can and does). The proceeds all go to a local charity and Regal gets a chance to work the bugs out. A great deal all around.

So sad, then, when one looks at the choices available: "Alvin and the Chipmunks," "Paul Blart: Mall Cop,"... You get the idea. But wait! They booked "The Dark Knight" into the Imax screen! Only two bucks to get in... I'm there!

But first, a few words about the facility itself:

Thornton Place has 14 screens with seven each on two levels. There are two snack bars, one on each level. Theaters range in size from 164 to 349 seats and it is Seattle's first all-digital theater. Imax is installed in theater #2, which has 297 seats. The lobbies for each level are not particularly roomy and it is easy to imagine bottlenecks developing with crowds entering and leaving each level at the same time. But tonight, that wasn't a problem (maybe "Alvin and the Chipmunks" wasn't quite the draw they had hoped for).

The Imax "Lite" Experience:

As one enters theater #2, a small portion of the screen can be seen and it looks huge in that persective're totally in the theater and realize that it measures only 28 feet tall by 48 feet wide. As in real Imax theaters, there is no masking. But, unlike "real" Imax theaters, theater #2 is laid out in standard stadium layout, six or seven flat rows in the front half, and nine stadium rows in the back. Normally I appreciate this type of layout as I am no fan of stadium seating, but it doesn't work for Imax.

I first tested out a seat in the stadium section but found the screen size less than overwhelming, one of the things I demand at Imax. So I sat in the back row of the front section and found myself craning my neck since most of the film is presented in standard scope dimensions and centered relatively high on the screen. It is only during the actual Imax-filmed sequences that the entire screen is utilized...well, except for the bottom two feet or so (not sure why). By the way, gotta love those Regal seats. They are by far the most comfortable seats of the three nationwide chains.

Sound is a major component of Imax and Regal delivers it in spades. Every gunshot rumbles through the theater, sending sound shockwaves through your body. I can only hope that they put enough insulation in the walls to prevent sound creep into adjacent theaters 1 and 3.

But the problem is that I go to Imax for the image. Sound to me is secondary. Therein lies the problem. Imax "Lite" is nothing more than a standard presentation (except for the true Imax scenes) and is awkwardly projected. In fact, I would go so far as to avoid any Hollywood film presented in "Imax" that doesn't include any special Imax-filmed scenes. Actually, I'll be avoiding Imax "Lite" for any film shown in the process. It's not worth the extra $4 to $5 Regal tacks on for the "experience" in any way.

But for $2? I'm there!

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David Au

Posts: 133
From: Walnut Creek, CA
Registered: Sep 2006

 - posted May 21, 2009 07:23 PM      Profile for David Au   Email David Au         Edit/Delete Post 
I too have seen an IMAX Lite at AMC Bay Street in Emeryville. The sound was good, but the screen was not too big. However, at AMC Bay Street the screen was probably a little bigger than the one at the new Regal Cinema. I too would not pay for IMAX Lite again. I would just see movies on a normal screen and save my money.

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Mark Campbell

Posts: 437
From: Seattle, WA
Registered: Oct 2004

 - posted May 22, 2009 01:01 PM      Profile for Mark Campbell   Email Mark Campbell         Edit/Delete Post 
I think I will pass on Imax-lite. Will probably be let down after being blown away by The Dark Night in real 70mm Imax. There are so many choices in the Seattle area of non-Imax screens that are actually BIGGER than an Imax-lite screen: Cinerama, Pacific Place, Crossroads, Alderwood 7, Oak Tree...

Speaking of the Oak Tree, the Thornton Place is 2 miles from it and in the same booking zone. Seems like the Oak Tree will have trouble booking new films from this point on. Anyone know what will happen when its current slate runs dry? (they have Angels and Demons and Star Trek on 2 screens each and Wolverine and the Soloist). Would make a good discount theatre but not sure if AMC runs any discount theatres in the chain...

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John J. Fink

Posts: 123
From: Buffalo, NY
Registered: Aug 2005

 - posted May 26, 2009 04:29 AM      Profile for John J. Fink   Author's Homepage   Email John J. Fink         Edit/Delete Post 
I don't recall ever seeing any AMC discount theater recently. Some offer some discount pricing on weekdays (Tallahassee Mall is an example).

But back to the topic of this forum: Mini IMAX sucks - it especially sucks in a brand new complex. IMAX should not be an afterthought, after all it is the star attraction at a multiplex. This is unforgivable especially if the Mini IMAX is going to become the new norm (I surely hope not). Why not build a huge IMAX screen and solidify your hold on the market? I have a theory that operators will soon have to, Mini IMAX rightfully so has been tore a new one all around, after all even the best conversion I've seen isn't that great.

I remember thinking when IMAX started to experiment with the educational programing becoming more narrative in style - that IMAX and the huge frame was going to spawn its own film language, in that there was something to be learned in how to use all that space. Now, that argument is dead.

I saw Star Trek in digital IMAX and visually it sucked - I could tell it was digital, it looked just like a regular digital projection with good sound. The sound is good, sure, but the huge screen is what makes IMAX, it has always defined IMAX. Putting a retrofit in a new complex seems awfully stupid.

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David Au

Posts: 133
From: Walnut Creek, CA
Registered: Sep 2006

 - posted May 26, 2009 05:22 PM      Profile for David Au   Email David Au         Edit/Delete Post 
AMC Young & Dundas in Toronto tried to put in a Mini-IMAX but IMAX struck it down since there is already an IMAX at the Scotiabank Theatre in Toronto.

AMC has created ETX: "the Enhanced Theatre Experience in Auditorium #7. ETX features a 20% larger floor-to-ceiling screen, 11-channel surround sound with 57,000 watts of power, and 8.8 million pixels providing 4X the resolution of HD."

I read a review of the ETX experience. The reviewer said that the sound was very good with good bass and low tones. He also said that the movie Star Trek did not take up the entire screen. The screen was not as big as the full sized IMAX at the Scotiabank Theatre. AMC is charging $2 extra for this ETX experience.

In this case, it is an IMAX imitation using a 4K digital projector. At least it is not advertised as a "LieMax." If they try to pass off a small screen as an IMAX I would be upset, but in this case they are offering a screen with reasonably good sound.

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