How Are IMAX Theaters Different?

by Colby Stream
IMAX theaters have larger screens and higher resolutions than traditional theaters.

IMAX theaters have larger screens and higher resolutions than traditional theaters.

Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images

IMAX, or Image Maximum, technology has been around since the 1960s, but has only recently become a popular ways to see movies. If you've considered seeing a movie in IMAX then you've noticed the difference in price from a traditional theater ticket. This isn't the only difference between IMAX and traditional theaters. Although you pay more, IMAX movies have better sound and image quality, a larger screen size and, if you're seeing it in 3D, a curved screen to help draw you into the movie.

Size

Everything about IMAX is bigger. The screen sits at about 50 feet high and 70 feet long, with variations depending upon the exact IMAX location. Additionally, IMAX theaters use a film frame that is about 10 times bigger than the standard 35mm frame, while each role of films weighs over 1,000 pounds. The projector used for the film is about the size of a Volkswagon beetle and weighs 1,500 pounds. The bulb used to projection the image onto the screen is 4,500 watts.

Sound

IMAX theaters, compared to traditional cinemas, have higher sound quality. Unlike other theaters, the film doesn't have music tracks embedded in them. Instead, IMAX theaters play the tracks from a hard drive in uncompressed format. The speakers sit behind the IMAX screen and in other locations through the theater, all with the purpose of enhancing the sound quality. As a result, audience members can detect the slightest change in sound.

Design and Resolution

IMAX theaters seat a large audience, sometimes into the hundreds, so that anyone can see the screen without distortion. In a traditional theater, the image appears better near the back of the room. The lower quality resolution and architectural design -- such as size of the theater and chair placement -- causes the picture distortion. IMAX uses a resolution that allows audience members to sit in the front row and experience the same image quality as those in the back.

Digital 3D

Traditional movie theaters use a type of 3D technology called "RealD 3D." Newer, but not all, IMAX theaters use technology called "IMAX Digital 3D." While both types use polarized glasses, viewers of RealD can move their heads without distorting the image. The same is not true for IMAX Digital 3D. However, IMAX Digital 3D screens curve in around the edges to draw the audience in better. Additionally, IMAX Digital 3D uses dual projectors and larger 3D glasses to accommodate the large screen size.

Photo Credits

  • Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images