What is IMAX & Is It Worth the Extra Cost?

I recently received a question from one my readers (which I highly encourage by the way) asking if I thought IMAX was worth what you pay for it. I posted my reply in the comments section but, after doing some research and considering that other people probably have the same question, I decided to post my thoughts as a separate post.

Fun Facts About IMAX

  • IMAX is short for "Image Maximum" (Wikipedia)
  • There is often a special "sneak peak" of some kind played before the film, such as 3-5 minutes of an upcoming film, an introduction by the film's director, etc.

Image Quality
IMAX Camera
 Photo Credit: Atlant 19:22, 26 August 2005 (UTC)

  • IMAX films are at a much higher/sharper image resolution due to using larger frame films (65mm or 70mm instead of the regular 35mm)
  • To put that in perspective, 35mm film produces about six thousand lines of horizontal resolution whereas 65mm film (IMAX) produces approximately 18 thousand lines (3x as many) lines of horizontal resolution!


  • "A standard IMAX screen is 72 ft × 53 ft, but can be significantly larger." (Wikipedia). That means that a standard IMAX screen is about 7 stories tall and 5 stories wide!  
  • A regular screen is about 22 ft x 52 ft wide, so I'm sure you can see a substantial difference


  • Unlike regular films where the film includes an embedded soundtrack, IMAX uses a sound follower to play back sound from a separate magnetic film in sync with the visual presentation of the film - so if you ever see the audio and projection out of sync at an IMAX showing, now you know why that might be
  • IMAX speakers not only have speakers all around the theater, including behind the screen, but they also have an extra top center speaker behind the screen that allows them to better use the taller IMAX screen to their advantage (DigitalContentProducer.com)


  • Each row of seats is higher than standard theaters, such that people in the row in front of you are almost never obstructing your view. I have found that nearly every seat in an IMAX theater is a good seat, even if you're off to the side or up in the front.
  • The higher resolution projection enables audience members to sit much closer to the screen (Wikipedia)
Photo Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center


  • In my experience, the average IMAX ticket price is about $15 and there are no matinee prices.
  • Regular movie tickets where I live range from $7.50-$10, depending on the time of day. That means that seeing a film in IMAX is between 50% and 100% as expensive as seeing a non-IMAX showing, depending on what time of day you go.

Not All IMAX Theaters are Created Equal

  • Projection: There has been some controversy around IMAX theaters that utilize digital projection systems (since they are cheaper), as opposed to 65 or 70mm film and the projection system necessary to use it. The problem arises since the digital projection has a noticeably lower quality resolution and the uninformed audience member won't realize they are getting a sub-par IMAX experience until after they have already bought their ticket (Wikipedia).
  • Screen Size: Not all IMAX screens are the same size, with some being towering monuments to cinema and others being closer to the size of a regular theater screen.
  • 2D/3D/HFR: Many IMAX showings are in 3D but some are not. Rarely, IMAX also presents films in a higher frame rate (e.g. 44 FPS) like they did for The Hobbit.

My Impressions

I have seen several films in IMAX and, in every instance that I can recall, I also saw those same films in a regular theater - so I have a pretty good idea of the difference.

Photo Credit: SuperArticleGuy
I really enjoyed seeing The Hobbit trilogy in IMAX because I felt like the higher quality sound system, substantially larger screen and especially the Higher Frame Rate (which was unique to that trilogy) added a lot to the experience.

When I went to see Avengers: Age of Ultron in IMAX, I was still impressed by the sound quality and giant screen, but I was hoping for a substantially higher picture quality (since my most recent IMAX experience was The Hobbit) and, thus, I was a bit let-down. I still enjoyed Age of Ultron more in IMAX than on the regular screen, but not as much more as I had enjoyed The Hobbit in IMAX compared to The Hobbit on a regular screen.


I think IMAX can be worth the extra expense but only for the right films. I would recommend IMAX for larger-than-life, epic films that would benefit from the massive screen, higher resolution and epic sound system (like Jurassic World or Star Wars: The Force Awakens).

IMAX is usually only a few dollars more than a standard evening ticket price but is double the price of a matinee. If it's any indication, I have only been to a handful of IMAX showings in my life, despite how often I go to the theater. If IMAX were the same price or only a dollar more, I would go to IMAX every time, but since the price gap is substantial, it's usually not worth it to me.

I hope that answers your question! Please LIKE and SHARE this post if you found it useful. Thanks!