As part of a day trip to the New England Aquarium, Meghan and I went to see Deep Sea 3D at the Simons IMAX Theatre. It got me thinking about an article a few months ago in Entertainment Weekly about the future of the movies in light of the downward box office trend of the last few years.
In that article, a theory was given that the movie experience might become closer to the experience of movie going in the past: a more elite experience that might cost more, but will be shown on gargantuan screens while patrons sit in comfortable seating in a luxurious movie theatre, rather than the cookie-cutter ones we have now. We’ve already seen this trend with movie theaters returning to stadium-style seating, adding more amenities, and some movies being released in regular and IMAX format at the same time. And now nearly all first and second-tier – as well as several third-tier cities – have IMAX theatres.
Could IMAX be the future of the movies?
A major argument for this would be the ability for IMAX to keep the experience of seeing a movie something of a spectacular event. Consider that for a few hundred dollars you can buy an out-of-the-box home theater system that will shake your windows and wake the neighbors. So there’s no longer the need to go to the movies for great sound. In fact, I think that a Dolby DTS/THX-certified DVD (geek alert!) on a good sound system can sound BETTER on my home theater than in the movies.
One might say that the big difference is the screen; but that may be just for now. As all television sets transfer to HDTV in the coming years, picture quality will get better, and more and more people are spending money on a big screen TV set. The quality will be as good, if not better than you get at the theater (though still not quite as big) and the sound might be better.
Watching your DVD at home will also allow you to avoid the nuisance of people coming in late and talking and cell phones ringing, as happened during a recent viewing of The DaVinci Code.
So as I was sitting there watching amazing underwater cinematography on a gargantuan movie screen with a thunderous sound system, it did occur to me that this could be the future of movies. However, the seating would be more comfortable and the tickets would be more expensive. The more expensive tickets would mean that you’d think twice about walking in 5 or 10 minutes late – maybe the theaters would even stop people from entering, as they do with plays and musicals.
The best part would be what could be done from a movie production standpoint with the higher resolution, bigger screen and bigger sound that comes with an IMAX theatre. We’d probably have to put up with some mindless action stuff, but eventually a director will figure out a way to effectively utilize IMAX film in a way that the medium can help to convey emotion and a sense of connection. Maybe it’ll even be in 3D.