With a presentation to shareholders on Tuesday, executives from Toronto based Imax addressed the crapstorm over screen size recently stirred up by Aziz Ansari. Their justification? They’ve been doing it for 6 years, profits are up and until now nobody was complaining. According to Carl DiOrio in The Hollywood Reporter:
Imax officials dealt with the matter by labeling it an old issue that hadn’t kicked up a fuss until now. The average Imax screen size has been just slightly bigger than conventional screens for about six years, ever since the company began offering less expensive Imax-format systems for easier implementation in multiplexes, they noted…
…The digital systems now being rolled out…are of the same dimensions as the second generation of Imax’s analog systems, officials said.
The company’s multiplex agreements allow the removal of the lower portion of seating in stadium-seat venues, creating the perception of greater screen size and viewing immersion, they added, and Imax’s remastering of commercial films tagged for its distribution boost image resolution and brightness.”
So, everyone is making money and patrons haven’t complained so there’s no problem? More likely I think people just don’t know what they’re getting…or not getting as the case may be…until it’s too late. It’s only been in the last year or so (especially since The Dark Knight which had scenes expressly filmed for Imax) that this was a mainstream issue in the first place.
I saw Shine a Light in one of these multiplex theaters that had aggressive stadium seating and the first few rows of seats had been removed so the seating area could be pushed closer to the screen. The screen itself wasn’t as big as the 76-foot high museum behemoths people ordinarily associate with Imax, but the sound and resolution were great and the proximity to the screen approximated the immersive experience that Imax is known for. Plus the concert was shot with Imax in mind using HD digital cameras. An important point since not all films are shot in the higher resolutions (or larger 70mm film format) required for decent presentation on large screens.
Watchmen was a whole different story. The stadium slope was modest so if the first few rows and been removed and the screen was closer to the seating area, it was indistinguishable anywhere further back than the very front of the auditorium. Ostensibly the sound system was better and the image resolution and brightness were boosted, but is that really an excuse to increase the ticket price? Absolutely not.
Like nutrition information on pre-packaged food, Imax and theater chains should at least be clearly informing customers exactly what they’re getting before they purchase a ticket and enter the auditorium. If the ‘Imax Experience’ really is worth an extra five bucks in all its incarnations, then the company shouldn’t be afraid to be upfront about exactly what they’re delivering.
The fact that no one has complained in six years is not a justification.