The Difference Between IMAX & Regular Theaters

by Mark Applegate Google
IMAX movie theaters are a feast for the eyes and ears.

IMAX movie theaters are a feast for the eyes and ears.

Hemera Technologies/ Images

IMAX theaters provide a true "shock and awe treatment" to your senses. Since their introduction in 1971, IMAX theaters have moved from a small niche industry showing mostly nature films and specially produced movies inside museums or other entertainment venues to displaying Hollywood blockbusters. As of 2010, IMAX was planning expansion into 400 cities. This meteoric rise of this entertainment machine is because of the quality of production.


The movie screen in an IMAX movie is typically about six times the size of a traditional movie screen, ranging in size from 50 by 70 feet to even much bigger. IMAX Dome theaters, with reclining seats looking up at a domed ceiling, have screens at least 90 feet wide. Add to this the greatly increased resolution afforded it by the 70 millimeter film versus the 35 millimeter used in a standard theater, and the picture looks much better. IMAX movies that weren't filmed in 70 millimeter, such as most typical 35 millimeter Hollywood films, are encoded and remanufactured to use the IMAX projectors and are slightly smaller size, about 75 percent of the IMAX screen, yet provide a very high resolution experience. IMAX 3D theaters use a projector similar in size to a small car. They instantly project alternating right eye and left eye images to the screen in a way that mimics the way your eyes work.


IMAX films move the soundtrack from the video track inside the film onto its own 35 millimeter strip or hard disk drive, allowing for better picture and better sound. It is carefully synced with the video either by computer or within the projector. The theaters typically utilize IMAX six channel surround sound, with between 40 and 50 speakers and at least 12,000 watts of ear-pounding sound. Speakers are placed in all directions, including behind the screens to support a fuller three-dimensional sound effect.

Overall Experience

With the increased resolution and enhanced sound, sitting closer to the screen without hurting your eyes is a tremendous advantage in an IMAX theater. These theaters don't have bad places to sit. The seating is typically slightly wider and allows for more reclining to compensate for screen height. This is especially so in IMAX Dome theaters.


IMAX theaters typically cost much more to build, to acquire films for and to attend. It is common to have at least a $5 IMAX fee placed on your ticket price compared to the admission for a movie shown on a traditional screen. This extra price can be more for a 3D movie.

Photo Credits

  • Hemera Technologies/ Images