Hey friend! Are you someone who loves going to the movies and getting fully immersed in the world on the big screen? If so, you need to experience today‘s most enveloping theater formats – IMAX and ScreenX.
But what exactly are the key differences between these two premium large formats? With higher ticket prices, which one gives you the most bang for your buck? And most importantly, which provides the most mind-blowing cinematic experience?
As a fellow movie buff, I was curious to find out! So I did some deep research into IMAX and ScreenX. And let me tell you – these theater setups take the idea of "big screen" to literally larger-than-life levels.
Keep reading as I break down my complete side-by-side comparison of IMAX vs ScreenX. I‘ll cover everything from the screen specs, sound quality, and filming process to theater availability, ticket prices, and much more. Let‘s dive in!
At a Glance: How IMAX and ScreenX Compare
Before getting into the details, here‘s a high-level overview of IMAX vs ScreenX:
|Screen Size||About 72ft x 50ft||270-degree panoramic|
|Aspect Ratio||1.43:1 or 1.90:1||1.5:1 or 2:1 recommended|
|# of Global Theaters||Over 1,700||364 currently|
|Avg. Ticket Price||~$3-5 premium over standard||100-200% more than standard|
|Top-Grossing Movie||Avengers: Endgame||Top Gun: Maverick|
As you can see, IMAX has been around for 50+ years compared to ScreenX‘s decade in cinemas. But ScreenX makes up for its newcomer status with a truly next-level wraparound viewing experience.
Next, let‘s do a deep dive into exactly how IMAX and ScreenX differentiate across 10 key categories. Grab some popcorn and get ready for the ultimate movie theater showdown!
Screen Size and Aspect Ratio
The most noticeable variance between IMAX and ScreenX is the screen size and shape.
IMAX screens are much larger than traditional cinema screens, but they stick to a standard rectangular ratio. There are two common IMAX aspect ratios:
- 1.43:1 – Using 70mm film projected horizontally for ~30% larger picture than 70mm projected vertically.
- 1.90:1 – Digital IMAX ratio matching today‘s widescreen films.
Comparatively, ScreenX utilizes a massive 270-degree panoramic screen that immerses you in the movie by projecting across 3 walls of the auditorium. This wraparound view fills your peripheral vision with the film.
The ScreenX aspect ratio ranges between 1.5:1 and 2:1. While IMAX increases image height, ScreenX expands the width for a true panorama.
According to John Fithian, CEO of the National Association of Theatre Owners, the average ScreenX auditorium has a 39% larger screen size than IMAX.
So when it comes to total screen real estate, ScreenX wins. But IMAX still impresses with its towering movie canvas.
To optimize a film for IMAX or ScreenX, different production approaches are needed:
IMAX requires shooting with one of 7 certified IMAX digital cameras or 70mm IMAX film cameras. Christopher Nolan is a famous proponent of filming actual IMAX footage.
ScreenX can either film with a 3-camera rig or adapt footage in post-production with CGI fill-ins for the side screens. Most ScreenX versions use the latter approach.
According to AMC‘s website, over 170 Hollywood films have been formatted for IMAX compared to around 50 for ScreenX. The ease of filming true IMAX footage with today‘s digital cameras gives it the edge for major studio releases.
But ultimately, both can make blockbusters larger than life. For example, Avatar: The Way of Water (2022) formatted over an hour of runtime for each system!
As we touched on with filming formats, IMAX has the advantage when it comes to new releases being optimized for its screens.
According to IMAX CEO Rich Gelfond, 80% of IMAX theaters feature major Hollywood films during prime opening weekends. All the biggest franchises like Marvel, DC, Transformers, Jurassic World, etc film partly in IMAX.
Meanwhile, ScreenX has a smaller library of about 50 enhanced titles. Availability relies on distribution deals with studios. Recently, Walt Disney Pictures, Sony Pictures, and Paramount Pictures have released films in ScreenX, including Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022), Bullet Train (2022), and Top Gun: Maverick (2022).
But IMAX‘s first-run dominance gives serious cinephiles more options to see highly anticipated films in an immersive format promptly. ScreenX availability can be hit or miss.
Accessing these premium formats also comes down to how many theaters offer them:
- Over 1,700 IMAX screens globally in 80+ countries
- All major chains like AMC, Regal, and Cinemark have IMAX in select locations
- Only 364 ScreenX screens globally as of January 2023
- Primarily located in Regal, Cineworld, B&B, and some AMC locations
So while ScreenX availability is increasing, IMAX still dominates in terms of accessibility. But new ScreenX locations are opening internationally, including a record 50 added in 2022 alone.
My advice? Look up specific IMAX and ScreenX-equipped theaters near you before purchasing tickets to guarantee access.
As you‘d expect, experiencing movies in these premium formats will cost you more than the standard $8-$15 ticket price:
- IMAX tickets cost an extra $3-$5 on average depending on location
- For new releases, expect to pay $15-$20 for IMAX
- ScreenX tickets run 100-200% higher than standard tickets
- That means ScreenX tickets can run over $25 in major markets
Both theater companies also charge more for 3D showings on top of the IMAX or ScreenX upcharge.
While ScreenX costs significantly more, there are less location options. But IMAX‘s moderate upcharge makes it accessible for regular moviegoers wanting an elevated experience.
Beyond the visual expand, these theater setups also amp up the audio experience:
IMAX theaters are specially constructed with steep stadium seating, curved screens, and advanced surround sound setups.
Sound systems feature dual subwoofers and up to 12 discrete audio channels with multi-directional in-ceiling speakers.
This IMAX 12.0 sound system was co-developed with audio legends like THX and Dolby.
ScreenX theaters boast 11.1 channel surround sound for immersive audio.
Speakers are arranged throughout the auditorium including height speakers above the center screen.
So for the most cutting-edge 3D sound technology, IMAX wins. But ScreenX still envelops you with directional audio effects matching the on-screen action.
Financial earnings showcase the broader appeal of IMAX compared to the niche ScreenX:
Avengers: Endgame set records in 2019, generating $150 million domestically in IMAX ticket sales.
Recently, Avatar: The Way of Water (2022) earned over $148 million from North American IMAX screens and counting.
ScreenX‘s biggest earner is Top Gun: Maverick (2022) which made $60 million from ScreenX theaters in the U.S. and Canada.
Considering there are 5 times more IMAX locations, the per-theater gross still favors IMAX. But both formats are profitable for theater chains and keep audiences buying tickets.
The History of IMAX vs ScreenX
Learning the origin stories behind these theater experiences also provides helpful context:
- Founded in 1967 in Canada by 5 innovators who realized moving 70mm film horizontally through projectors enabled 30% larger aspect ratio
- The first permanent IMAX theater opened in 1971 in Toronto
- Through the decades, IMAX grew internationally and Hollywood took notice
- Digital projection allowed IMAX to expand from 300 theaters in 2008 to over 1,700 today
- Created in 2012 by South Korean theater chain CJ CGV as an immersive panoramic format using 3-camera filming
- Debuted its first ScreenX auditorium in Seoul, South Korea
- Expanded into Europe and the U.S. through deals with exhibitors
- There are now 364 ScreenX screens globally after rapid growth
While IMAX pioneered premium cinema decades earlier, ScreenX proves there are still new ways to enhance the moviegoing experience through technology.
Additional Pros and Cons to Consider
- Massive screen height increase for eye-popping visual scale
- Mainstream films optimized for IMAX consistently
- Over 1,700 IMAX screens globally provide widespread access
- Relatively affordable ~$5 premium ticket price over standard
- Still just one screen versus ScreenX‘s panoramic views
- Films only initially released in IMAX for limited time
- Older IMAX locations have inferior Xenon projection
- Fully immersive panoramic visuals surrounding you in the movie
- Growing format with new ScreenX theaters opening worldwide
- Pairs with 4DX motion seats in select theaters for added immersion
- Only ~50 enhanced titles currently available in ScreenX
- Limited global availability with under 400 screens
- Very expensive tickets, often over 100% markup vs standard pricing
And the Winner Is…
After this comprehensive comparison between IMAX and ScreenX across 10 key categories, which premium cinema format comes out on top?
When you consider the broader availability of IMAX screens worldwide, the pipeline of blockbuster films optimized for IMAX, and its more digestible ticket pricing, IMAX edges out ScreenX as the current champion of immersive theatrical experiences.
However, ScreenX provides unmatched visual immersion with cinema projected on wrapped-around panoramic screens filling your peripheral vision. While pricier and less common, ScreenX offers hardcore movie fans something truly unique.
Ultimately, you can‘t go wrong experiencing today‘s biggest movies in either format. Both IMAX and ScreenX prove that cinema still offers breathtaking spectacle that simply can‘t be matched at home.
So next time you head to the theaters, consider upgrading to one of these formats. Just don‘t blame me when you have a new addiction to seeing every epic blockbuster on the grandest screens possible! Enjoy the show.