Then came the train. Faster and faster, it approached and it looked as if I was going to be run over! Luckily the train stopped just a few feet short of my seat.
No, I wasn’t outside at the train station. I was in a nice warm cozy theatre at Mira Mesa, near San Diego, previewing the new IMAX theatre that was opening there.
IMAX, a 3D way of viewing films, is relatively new. In the past, we associated IMAX with museum films of fish, animals and other natural environmental stories. Now, they have expanded, taking on blockbuster films like Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and Transformers. In all, they have 19 films that they have converted to the IMAX format. Some of the directors even prefer shooting in IMAX as did Christopher Nolan of Dark Knight or JJ Abrams with Star Trek. Soon James Cameron will follow with Avitar. “It’s like dreaming with your eyes wide open,” Cameron says. Directors like Spike Jones, Robert Zemickis, David Heyman, and Jeff Katzenberg are also fond of the IMAX versions.
Brian Bonnick, the tech guy of IMAX, explained the two projector system and is aimed at the front of the brain so that you experience it rather than at the back of the brain, like the Disney 3D, which is more passive. Rich Gelfond, the president, showed us how the angle of vision is expanded with the curved screens and how the theatres are designed specially to maximize the viewing potential for all seats. “We would rather give up seating area and revenue. We want everyone to have a full experience of the show.”
Greg Foster, who is in charge of acquisitions, views the films ahead of time and decides what will make a good IMAX and what won’t. “If it’s a place where people want to be and never have been, or an experience that very few people get to have, then it’s a film we want to be part of.” Fantasy and tentpole films usually work good with this, but not always. He wouldn’t tell us the name but there is one film coming out that they rejected because it didn’t give the audience any new experience. “We want the viewer to feel that his extra dollars spent to see the IMAX version of a film were worth the money, especially in this tight economy.” Each theatre, themselves, sets the price to charge for the IMAX experience and they control only the four theatres that they own.
One of the key factors in producing a good IMAX is brightness and the other is sound that surrounds the audience and pulls you in to the story and creates more realistic images. The sound works through five separate channels.
It costs close to one million to digitally master the film and convert it to IMAX. For this reason, many of the directors are shooting their material straight into IMAX cameras. These cameras must be rented directly from IMAX and so they are booked way in advance. Some of the other films have included Night at the Museum 1 and 2, all the other Harry Potters, 300, I Am Legend, and they are getting ready to present Warner’s new picture, Where the Wild Things Are. (October 16th). Many others are under consideration like Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland and Christmas Carol.
“We only want to show the biggest and best movies in IMAX format and they require a 5 week license agreement from the studios, who, when they see the revenue jump are usually quite pleased.
For more information about IMAX call 310 255 5500.