Poor Man’s IMAX

“The obvious solution is to brand ‘new IMAX’ so customers know what they’re getting,” Roger Ebert wrote the day before yesterday. “Call it IMAX Lite, IMAX Junior, MiniMAX or IMAX 2.0. Or call the old format ‘IMAX Classic.’

“Hey, that worked for Coke. Significantly, a lot of exhibitors favor specifically identifying the new format, perhaps because they’re offering something better than on their other screens, yet getting flack from customers because it’s inferior to IMAX Classic.

“One reason exhibitors are friendly to IMAX is that the company is spending money to convert the target theaters. The exhibitors themselves, however, are expected to pay for an upgrade to the latest 3-D technology. Everybody is short of money these days, and both formats offer an excuse for a $5 surcharge.”

22 thoughts on “Poor Man’s IMAX

  1. Deathtongue_Groupie on said:

    Only problem is, nowhere in his post does Ebert credit Aziz Ansari with launching this consumer backlash against the IMAX switcheroo. Worse, he makes it seem like it came to him because of some reader’s letter.

    Ansairi’s rant is significant because it shows that someone with just 250,000 twitter followers was able to poke a corporation into reacting to a situation that had been ignoring for awhile now. Ansari wasn’t first to complain about it, but the resulting PR shitstorm forced them to deal with it.

  2. Except Ansari isn’t the one who deserve credit for launching the backlash. Others, including Ebert, wrote about it earlier. Ansari was just the one who got the traction. In fact, Ansari’s graphic for the screen difference between Original IMAX and MinIMAX and some of the facts about the differences came from an LFExaminer.com article written last October (http://www.lfexaminer.com/20081016.htm).

    Ebert gave proper credit where it was due.

  3. Ebert is STILL on the Maxivision kick?

    I’ve never seen it, I’m sure it’s as fantastic as it is, but after what, a decade of raving about it, it’s like listening to the schmucks who defended Betamax into the 1990s, or Laserdiscs after DVD showed up.

    The best format rarely wins, folks. The “good enough” format does.

    That said. . . anyone ever see Maxivision? Any opinions? I’ve always been curious about it.

  4. Keep on fighting the good fight, Roger.

    When a talkbacker raises the distribution issue, Roger had this to say: “Ebert: True, but we’re talking picture quality, not delivery cost.”

    That works for theme parks, but not for wide scale distribution of films. Maxivision on 3000 screens? Not in the digital age.

    The theater owners and distributors are approaching the holy grail. People are watching movies projected from a disc or hard drive and aren’t complaining about it (the IMAX controversy is a whole different animal). No more film, no more scratched prints, no more distribution costs, etc. Roger needs to turn his attention to promoting the best digital projection standard. Film is all but dead for mass film distribution.

  5. Thankfully, I won’t have to worry about Imax, 3D, or any of the digital nonsense. Just give me a regular movie screen, the current sound system used in today’s theatres, actual celluloid running through a projector and I’ll be satisfied.

    My real movie-going concerns, though, are the quality of the storytelling, the $12.5 (and rising) ticket prices, and the asshole sitting behind me who keeps kicking my chair and talking…

  6. EdHavens – “launch” or “traction” is just semantics.

    Without Ansari’s Howard Beale moment, IMAX would not be doing damage control right now.

    So give realistic proper credit where credit is due.

  7. IMAX Digital was put forward by the exhibitors, but IMAX shot it down. Idiots who brought this on themselves.

  8. DTG – I’m familiar with Ansari’s rant, but I’m not familiar with any changes to the IMAX policy, to date. So what reaction of IMAX’s are you talking about?

  9. In fact, the CEO of IMAX is quoted in this article saying that nobody cares about the difference, that the approval rating is identical. I’m not sure your boy Aziz had any impact whatsoever, other than riling Internet nerds.

  10. I, too, am confused about the real effects (if any) of Ansari’s rant.

    As others have said, Ebert addressed the situation long before he did, and the actual article was from LFExaminer.

    What the hell does “realistic proper credit” mean in this instance, and why does this stooge Ansari deserve it?

    Since he used Twitter, why not just track the egg all the way back to the chicken and give all the credit to Ashton Kutcher, since he popularized the app in the first place?

    Hey, I’m just using your reasoning here.

  11. Oh, my bad then.

    It must be completely coincidental that after Ansari’s blog got mentioned repeatedly in the MSM (Google news Ansari +IMAX) that IMAX has suddenly decided that it might start branding the smaller screens, which is a terrible idea from a purely business point of view. Especially when their own polling showed that the general public apparently couldn’t care less.

    This might have been “out there” among film nerds, but IMAX didn’t care about until the general public started hearing about it. But whatever, when I start getting “logic” like ChewingGum it’s time to start recognizing a waste of time and move on.

  12. I see what you’re saying, DtG…sorry my grouchy mood has been getting the best of me today.

    But at the end of the day, it just seems to be much ado about nothing. A lot of white noise during one particular day with no real consequence. Some quick PR faux-reparation to keep their major stockholders from hastily dropping out.

    I doubt you’ll see IMAX re-brand any of their screens, and especially not in the near future.

    Good for Ansari, I guess. Maybe this will translate into more people going to see his act at comedy clubs, or whatever the hell it is he does for fun after his long, arduous day of tweeting.

  13. Hey, this isn’t comedy, where “stealing” a bit or not crediting somebody is a high crime. Ansari was VERY late to the game. I think the first piece I saw about the Great IMAX Screen Size Ripoff was in the NY Post or Daily News, Oct. of last year. Many others got on this kick, newspaper people like me, magazines. If IMAX blinked, it ain’t because of one rant.

  14. Sounds like a job for Malcolm Gladwell!

    Ansari is a connector and a maven, Ebert’s a salesman, and Twitter helped push this meme to the tipping point. Incidentally, Gladwell took some themes for his bestselling book from the 1967 book “Six Degrees of Separation” by sociologist Stanley Milgram– all this from Wikipedia! (and I don’t even know what we’re talking about)

  15. “IMAX has suddenly decided that it might start branding the smaller screens”

    But, again, what are you referring to? The guy in the article says the exact opposite of this.

  16. Q: You’ve been a specialty player in the movie business domestically. How do you achieve greater ubiquity elsewhere in the world?

    A: At the moment, we’ve beaten everybody else around the world. In China, we’ll have 25 theaters open by ’08, which I think is more than any foreign entity. In Russia, we have contracts for five theaters. In Poland, we have four or five theaters. In India, we have contracts for about eight. So when we look at the world, there are about 900 potential markets that could fit an Imax theater, 600 of those are international. But just to go a little further, in the old days to build an Imax theater cost $4.5 million to $5 million. We developed a lower-cost system called Imax MPX, that fits in an existing multiplex. The all-in cost is around $1.5 million, including equipment and retrofitting the theater. That greatly expanded the markets we could go into and tremendously improved the economics for the exhibitors.

    —-

    That was IMAX Co-CEO Richard Gelfond answering questions from a USA Today reporter, back in December 2005. So where was our outrage when word of this plan came directly from the source?

    Oh yeah. It was in USA Today. No one actually read it. But you can read the whole interview at http://www.usatoday.com/money/companies/management/2005-12-04-insana-imax_x.htm and then check out this 2002 article about IMAX in the same paper (http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/techinnovations/2002-12-16-imax_x.htm) and be amazed at how quickly attitudes change when you’re desperate to keep your company afloat.

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