Thursday, 10 May 2012

Critique: IMAX vs. UltraAVX

A little while ago, I wrote a post about UltraAVX.  Since then, I've seen a few more films in this format, as you're able to order your tickets in advance and don't have to wait in line for blockbusters on opening weekend. And I did mention that UltraAVX really couldn't compare to IMAX.

For simplicity sake, let's just look at the projectors used for the two technologies.

Name: UltraAVX
Projector: Christie CP2230
Brightness: ~33,000 lumens
Resolution: 4096 x 2160

Name: IMAX
Projector: Proprietary (so far as I can discern...and moving to a Barco later this year)
Brightness: ~600,000 lumens
Resolution: 12,000 × 8,700

So obviously, you're looking at apples and oranges. But it is in its experience that things get rather interesting. The way that IMAX is set up, the cinema room is such that when you look forward, the screen is supposed to encompass your entire viewing area when you look forward. Because of that, IMAX will limit the number of seats in a viewing room to optimise the audience's viewing experience. This is also actually the drawback of IMAX and a point gained for UltraAVX. In order to maximise the number of seats available in an IMAX viewing room, the seats are more packed in. You have less leg room, and also, less elbow room.

Quite honestly, the average person's ear isn't trained and therefore, really isn't that good. For all you audiophiles out there, you know that wattage isn't everything. UltraAVX does boast 16,000 watts vs. IMAX's 12,000 watts. And yet, I personally feel that IMAX's sound experience is more immersive. What makes that even more interesting, is that UltraAVX uses 7 channels vs. IMAX's 6 channels. I think it has to do with the speakers that are in behind the screen in an IMAX viewing room.

Both allow for audiences to purchase tickets in advance and preselected rocker seats.

You WILL notice a big difference between traditional screens and IMAX screens. But the difference isn't so big between UltraAVX screens and IMAX screens. Tickets are $14.99 (plus tax) and $17.99 (plus tax) respectively, versus $11.99 (plus tax) for regular admission. So the question of worth probably becomes the biggest point of differentiation because while per ticket, it doesn't seem like a whole lot, if you're going as a family of 4, it starts adding up.

My personal feeling is that, for movies that require big picture and big sound, UltraAVX will MORE than satisfy the overwhelming majority of audience members. And you're more likely to find a cinema offering UltraAVX than you will for IMAX. But for certain movies, that you just want things as realistic and as vivid and as brilliant as possible, there is STILL no substitute for IMAX.



  1. Good and fair review. Thanks for your insight. It was very helpful.

  2. Trying to decide on this for Batman, thx. Unfortunate that no imax in Durham region yet tho...

    1. Thanks for the feedback. re: Batman, we weren't able to get tickets until THIS weekend (Jul 27th), but I'll definitely be doing an IMAX write up for it. Please stay tuned.

  3. I've watch Dark Knight Rises in Both UltraAvx and IMAX and I can say that the IMax one blew me away with sound and visuals.

    1. Thanks for the response. Glad you were able to enjoy them both.

  4. I think your assessment of IMAX is for the full 15/70 frame size, as opposed to the "Digital IMAX" version for theatres, which is also a 2K projector, like UltraAVX. So, if you're watching in a Multiplex, as opposed to a purpose-built IMAX theatre, the main difference will be the screen size, reportedly taller for IMAX.

  5. I think you should also mention that Ultra AVX offers reserved seating whereas iMax does not. This is a key point as for people who want to watch new movies that have just come out don't have to wait in line to get good seats :)

    Although, I am not sure if this is the same for other regions, this is what it is like in the Vancouver area.

    1. Thx for the tip about YVR. In Toronto, both IMAX and AVX offers reserved seating. Sorry for the mixup

    2. You're wrong about IMAX in Vancouver area. I was just at Colossus in Langley, watching "OZ The Great and Powerful in IMAX 3D". I was able to book online at and choose the seats.

    3. Thanks for the verification...and glad I WAS RIGHT! haha =)~

    4. In Ottawa, both IMAX and AVX offer reserved seating also.

    5. I just reserved seats for the Hobbit in a multiplex IMAX here in Winnipeg.

  6. I hate, hate, HATE reserved seating. I mean, why rush to the movie when you know you've already got a seat, right?

    Why, you could just arrive whenever you want! Stand around, take your coat off, talk about how dark it is, how big the screen is, check your phone one last time and text just before you settle in.

    I hate it. UltraAvx is just a ploy by the big box theaters to charge more for their bigger rooms, which already had that screen and was using more wattage than their smaller boxes anyway.

    They're charging more today so I have the pleasure of being interrupted by mindless bores who ruin it for the rest of us.

    I prefer to skip UltraAvx when I can and simply find a theater about that size that doesn't have it. Sounds old school, but way less troubling.

  7. This is an interesting topic. What I'm wondering about is movies that are not filmed in IMAX format projected onto IMAX screens as opposed to UltraAVX screens. Obviously IMAX documentaries that are filmed in IMAX look amazing in IMAX cinemas. But how does UltaAVX compare when not showing an IMAX film in 3D? I would think that regular films shown on IMAX screens have to be blown up a little and lose some resolution.

  8. @Anonymous....

    We're all entitled to our opinions. But the sound, screen, and seating are all improvements from the "big screen / big sound" that was previously available. That IS fact. If you believe they are gouging you for it, there are always other rooms you that aren't UltraAVX mate. Regardless...Thanks for the comment and continue enjoying your moviegoing experience. Cheers.

    Wish I had an answer for you. My guess is, that what's available on "film" these days is more than enough to fill those screens. Just a guess. Thanks for the comment =)~

  9. The seating is an improvement, but all theatres should have reserved seating.

  10. There maybe very technical differences between the formats that end up being subjugated to the personal experience, but I find nothing so earth shattering being produced that warrants very many trips to the theaters.

    I will wait for the sale release and watch in on a 10' projector screen HT with 7.4 audio that is so much more than a mile away screen and boomy noise.


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