Go big or go home: IMAX and the future of cinema

<pre><pre>Go big or go home: IMAX and the future of cinema

How often do you go to the cinema? With Netflix or Amazon Prime Video for example, you can stream HD shows and movies to your home or just watch them at work, the answer might not be good for traditional movie theaters.

But when & # 39; go to the cinema & # 39; has been replaced by & # 39; Netflix and chilling & # 39 ;, is the most successful counter cinema experience that goes beyond what you can get from a television or a computer screen.

The IMAX name is already synonymous with blockbuster cinema, where the company has set the bar for high-resolution image recording and has built up a vast network of IMAX theaters around the world.

Although the company started to make educational shorts and nature documentaries – and it still produces such content – it is the canonballs in Hollywood with the release of Christopher Nolans The Dark Knight in 2008, giving the audience a real appetite for high-resolution movies. In the years that followed, films such as Transformers, Interstellar and Marvel & # 39; s Infinity War made all the recordings made on IMAX cameras and proved to be extremely suitable for films focused on visual spectacle.

What you may not know is that IMAX is not just a screen to sit for: you only see the IMAX branding for a specially designed cinema with special projectors and speakers and a PPS (Proportional point source) audio system that every seat as treats a tribute, and can be reportedly a whole octave lower than standard cinema audio.

But the current generation of moviegoers knows that they have access to countless films from different sources: on their computers, TV channels, streaming devices, Blu-Ray players or even projectors for more serious home viewing. And with hundreds of films released each year, it goes without saying that they will pick out those who think they are worth watching on the big screen.

Big and bold

IMAX screen

We spoke to IMAX's Chief Technology Officer, Brian Bonnick, who has overseeing the company's tremendous growth from just 40 theaters in the early years to more than 1,300 today.

Unlike some of the naysayers, Bonnick does not think that home streaming is a death blow to cinema, noting the huge difference in scale between a standard television and the giant screens of the company, which are usually 52 by 72 cm, not mention the high-end video and audio formats that are offered.

"People pay a premium for a surpassing product," says Bonnick. "Yes, today's young people are always on their tablet or computer, but they are also looking for an increased experience, and they are willing to pay for it."

The challenge that cinemas face today proves that they can offer that experience, and there are enough persistent attempts. One of the more eccentric ideas comes from screenX, who has developed three-wall film screens that offer an image of 270 degrees, although we hesitate to recommend it for a movie experience.

Is ScreenX's three-part movie screen worth the ticket premium?

Meanwhile, 3D continues to linger after IMAX has pioneered technology, although it is no longer the disruptive force that many filmmakers thought it would be, and even the much hyped virtual reality begins to lose its fascination. IMAX itself had started developing a Gold-standard VR camera alongside research teams at Google, but the project is reportedly suspended because the latter company focused more on augmented reality (AR) technologies.

Two of the seven "IMAX" RF experience sites in their flagship theaters have already been closed, with the future of the remaining five as an estimate. Although Bonnick says that they & # 39; invent how you can make money with VR, it does not really mean that & # 39; add-on & # 39; -experiences will help traditional cinemas to save from extinction . Instead, the public expects ever better images to be expected, from everything from their TV to their smartphone, really great picture quality (and audio), which is the only gimmick that people need – and at the moment IMAX is focusing its efforts.

World domination

TechRadar got the chance to visit the IMAX research facility in Toronto, Canada, one of only four locations worldwide with the company's latest projector system.

Most IMAX theaters have older xenon projectors that produce light by running electricity through an ionized xenon gas and then splitting the light through a glass prism. IMAX introduced a more accurate dual-laser projector in 2014, capable of 4K resolution with a greatly improved contrast ratio, color gamut and contrast ratio. (Trust us, it will come out.)

But the costs of continuously promoting the technological possibilities of your projection system are, well, the costs. The new, more compact single-laser projector will significantly reduce production and installation costs, which is significant for theaters that want an upgraded experience. IMAX have a mouthful of lips about precise figures, but you can bet that it gets a lot of bills.

The new projector is being rolled out this year and there is already a backlog, with many existing IMAX sites that need a refit for the technology, which is built for a long life. With fewer glass parts – which each time the light passes through – the new projectors are estimated to last 24-40,000 hours, compared to the 6-11,000 hours of the xenon projectors.


With over a thousand IMAX theaters around the world, the company is used to working in many different sizes, each with its own challenges, while there is a 24/7 maintenance service that follows the degradation of the old kit and knows when replacing parts, service or software updates must be sent ("94% of IMAX's technical problems are resolved remotely," Bonnick says).

The future success of IMAX will depend on offering simpler, cheaper technology that is easier to implement and maintain. If IMAX can continue to lower the price barrier for existing movie theaters to upgrade, it could be exactly the thing to keep theaters operational and enough to give an improved experience to lure the public out of their homes.

When we raise the household waste of streaming to the IMAX audience, Bonnick simply shrugs: "I do not think it's a problem for us, but I think it can be a problem for others."

IMAX expands into living rooms with a new home theater certification program