Jul.18 2012

See ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ on the True IMAX — Not the IMAX Digital “LIEmax”


I cannot even begin to tell you how many times I’ve had a conversation about the IMAX over the past couple of months. I have been talking about The Dark Knight Rises and how Christopher Nolan shot 60 minutes of his action pieces for his third and final Batman chapter with an IMAX camera — a camera very few filmmakers use. This filmmaking process leads to 70 mm shots which dwarf the standard 35 mm display. What am I talking about you are asking? You like Batman or Christopher Nolan? You really need to read this piece.

The Dark Knight Rises will not be playing at the true IMAX theaters forever, so you need to make a date with the film at one of these venues — many of you will not be able to book IMAX tickets for some time (the first days of the IMAX release have been sold out for over a month). But if you like this film after seeing it this weekend, you owe it to yourself to see it at the real IMAX, a screen that is 9 times bigger than standard screens. After the jump I will detail the difference between true IMAX and IMAX Digital, and how seeing The Dark Knight Rises in IMAX Digital is not how the famed filmmaker intended.

First, let’s start with the basics. Currently, when you go to a movie theater the film is presented as a standard 35 mm print. Even the Marcus Ultrascreen, other ‘mega’ screens, and even AMC IMAX screens present 35 mm. A true IMAX presentation of a film features 70 mm footage. The whole film isn’t in 70 mm, shooting an entire feature in 70 mm at this point would be uber costly.

{The Dark Knight Rises IMAX reel, weighing in at over 600 pounds.}

AMC theaters are an example of a venue that features IMAX Digital. These screens at AMC theaters are gigantic (or they appear to be, more on that later) and really enrich the movie going experience. But films cannot be presented in 70 mm. AMC Theaters and Regal Cinemas do not have true 70 mm IMAX screens. So, to repeat, if you have tickets to see The Dark Knight Rises at an AMC IMAX, you do not have tickets to see real 70 mm IMAX. You are getting duped by AMC and the IMAX name.

I live in Minnesota. The only place to see the 70 mm print of The Dark Knight Rises is to go to the Minnesota Zoo IMAX.

{Notice how close to the audience this screen is?}

True IMAX theaters are expensive. The mammoth reel projectors and the 8-story screens alone are a heavy investment — especially considering that most theaters now have upgraded from reel projectors to digital. So IMAX came out with a cheaper solution and teamed up with theater chains like AMC and Regal to bring their name and tech to more venues. This led to IMAX Digital projectors, which are top notch in many regards, and bringing the screen closer to the audience. The front rows of seating in auditoriums were removed and the screens were moved 30 feet closer to the audience, a difference that is said to make the screen appear 75 feet wider. The key to that previous sentence is appear. Again, I will direct your attention to the header photo with Batman in flight. The picture on the left is the screen you will find at an AMC IMAX, the right is the 70 mm true IMAX. Still think the difference isn’t that significant?

The most distressing part about this IMAX confusion is how IMAX doesn’t even differentiate between these two technologies, these two different presentations. They don’t even tell audiences that IMAX Digital is not the true IMAX that can play 70 mm footage. They brand both simply as IMAX, but the experience between these two is not even close, not by a long, long shot. It’s sad I have to write a gigantic post to clarify the difference between this IMAX and that IMAX.

One thing The Dark Knight did was make a boat load of money at the box office. A large portion of that sum can be attributed to the higher ticket prices at the IMAX theaters around the world — despite there being about 46 times more standard theaters than true IMAX screens, the 70 mm showings contributed to 10% of the film’s gross. Suffice to say Nolan’s unique, and non 3D, presentation turned heads.

The Dark Knight Rises has 72 minutes of 70 mm IMAX footage, more than double what The Dark Knight had. So most of the film is in 35 mm on the 76 foot screen — but when The Dark Knight Rises switched to 70 mm action shots (scenes like the one seen in the title photo) and the picture touched the borders of the behemoth screen, it’s a theater experience unlike any I’ve had before. Watching a film, a film about Batman none the less, in 70 mm is truly the best way to watch a movie. It is completely and utterly daunting. It is an absolutely unbelievable experience, one not even close to being replicated by ‘Ultrascreens’ or IMAX Digital or even the best 3D experiences. Being disappointed while beholding 70 mm footage is like being disappointed in Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker.

So like I’ve said and said, the best way to experience this film is at a real IMAX screen — these showings are the way Christopher Nolan wanted his audiences to experience his movie, soaking in 70 mm shots of action. The only way to have an opportunity to take in the breathtaking beauty of 70 mm filmmaking is to go out of your way to find these unique venues. Even if you have to trek way out of your way to see this film at a real IMAX, do it. Sure you can see it at your local cinema and experience the film, but that’s not the experience Nolan was intending for you. There is a reason he shot with these expensive and bulky cameras, to shoot in 70 mm. So you have to see it in 70 mm to get the full effect of The Dark Knight Rises. Has Nolan ever let you down before?

Personally, I’ve now seen The Dark Knight, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, and The Dark Knight Rises at a real IMAX theater. Trust me when I say this, when the 70 mm shots kick in, it is in–sane. So when you decide to go see The Dark Knight Rises for a second or third time, make a date with a real IMAX theater if possible. Here is a link to help you find said true IMAX theaters.

{Note: Some IMAX theaters are attached to museums or theme parks and do not show Hollywood films. In Minnesota we have three 70 mm IMAX theaters, but only one plays Hollywood films.}

For those interested, check out this behind the scenes look at how the IMAX projectionists are preparing for The Dark Knight Rises. It’s odd to hear a projectionist talk about piecing a film together as digital projectors have done away with thisprocess. This video is a great watch and helps explain some more about IMAX technology.

I’ve been talking about his issue to anyone who will listen — earlier today I actually called into a local radio show (I come in at the 39:58 mark) while they were discussing The Dark Knight Rises to try and spread this information. I’d ask that you do the same. Help get the word out, spread this piece around and inform other movie-goers and Batman fans of this debauchery. Don’t let others get deceived into thinking they just saw a real IMAX cut of The Dark Knight Rises while watching it at an AMC Theater. I hope you all enjoy the final chapter of Nolan’s Batman.

Did You Know The Difference Between IMAXes?


Follow Matthew on Twitter: @matthewdeery


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Categories : Features
  • Stephenrjohnston

    wow, so thankful for this post. I heard that amc did that short changing of the seats in order to make it look like real imax. I have only been to one imax showing in my life when i was about 13 or 14. Only because there is none where I live. The closest imax theater is two and a half hours away. It is also one of those that show mostly nature documentaries and the like; however, it does show hollywood movies in the evenings sometimes. The one I am talking about is finally getting The Dark Knight Rises on August 24th. Anyways, I remember seeing real imax. The screen was freaking huge! My recent interest in this is because of the re release of Raiders of the Lost Ark in Imax. It appears most people will see this in the fake imax screens at AMC. I’m trying to find out if my closest real imax screen will show Raiders. Thanks for the great info.

  • Chitchatjf

    I was able to make a fair comparison in seeing The Dark Knight rises in both IMAX digital AND IMAX 15/70.

    know the screen is not 6 stories tall like at the traditional IMAX theater (the traditional IMAX near me has since been converted to just
    digital -using the SAME digital projector that AMC uses.)

    The key factor is where you sit. I like sitting close up
    front 3rd or 5th row (Though for the 15/70 presentation I was FRONT ROW

    Doing so in the IMAX digital screen allows the screen to fill more of your sight of vision.

    I have seen Dark Knight rises FOUR TIMES

    1)IMAX digital opening day -not the midnight show but the first matinee the next morning

    scope with captioning (I was able to get some missed dialog but just
    the scope image led me to feel that I was missing something) the Monday
    following opening weekend

    3) a second IMAX digital screening on August 7th

    4) the traditional 15/70 film IMAX on Wed Sept 12th