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