Universal Orlando adding IMAX to City Walk theater

Posted Tuesday, December 15, 2009 11:35 AM | Contributed by Jeff

Universal Orlando Resort introduces an exciting new cinematic experience for CityWalk movie-goers with the addition of IMAX at AMC Universal Cineplex 20. The new theatre opens at 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 18, with the opening of the highly anticipated James Cameron film, “Avatar.”

In order to maximize the field of view in the new IMAX theater, the screen was replaced with a special, larger IMAX screen that is positioned closer to the audience. The new theatre will also feature IMAX’s digital projection system as well as its latest sound system.

“With the addition of IMAX at AMC Universal Cineplex in CityWalk our guests now get the highest picture and sound quality in the industry – along with an incredible entertainment experience” says Ric Florell, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Resort Revenue Operations.

Read the entire press release from Universal Orlando.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009 11:59 AM

Well Jeezus Crimony. Its about time!

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009 12:30 PM

I'm guessing this is the crappy "fake IMAX" IMAX Digital system, where the screen is just a little bit bigger and (and still widescreen aspect) and designed for retrofit installations?

Although the Citywalk theater at Universal Hollywood has a "real" old-school IMAX theater. The difference between that and IMAX Digital is like the difference between watching a movie in a Cineplex and watching a movie on an iPod Nano.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009 1:28 PM

Came here to lament about the Fake IMAX(tm) installations, unsurprised that the AV guy said something about it first.

Thanks, Dave!

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009 4:34 PM

The thing you have to remember is that I have been going to Cedar Point for...like...forever. Which means that ever since 1975, the Cedar Point Cinema is, in my mind, what an IMAX screen should look like.

The Cedar Point Cinema screen, at 88 x 66 feet, was one of the larger IMAX screens they ever installed. I think it was third or fourth largest when it closed. Of course, installations like Aquarium of the Americas, Niagara Falls, Six Flags Great America...those are all at least on the same *scale* even if they are a little smaller. When the first movie theater in Columbus to have an IMAX screen, Marcus Crosswoods, showed Star Wars Ep. 1 on their IMAX screen, I went and saw it there. It wasn't formatted for IMAX, of course, but when I walked into the theater, people were impressed at the screen size, and I wondered if it was really big enough to be considered IMAX. But it was at least still big, and it would have been 15p/70mm if it had been an IMAX movie. Oh, and the theater was very clear that what we were seeing was a conventional print on an unusually big screen.

Then this summer, I paid extra to see Star Trek in "IMAX" but when I got into the theater it turned out to be one of these new-fangled IMAX Digital installations that was no bigger than the standard cineplex screen, and certainly not worth the extra money; I'd have been better off to go across town and see it in the "big box" in a different cineplex...in 4p/35mm which would have been higher resolution than I got with the digital IMAX. I was a bit peeved, though admittedly not as peeved as Aziz Ansari was with his experience.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009 6:20 PM

I read an article a week or so ago about the newly opening IMAX screens, and the example that they used was the new IMAX theater opening at Universal Citywalk in Orlando. According to the article, IMAX has started to lease their name out, like THX, and they require a few minor specks in order to allow the IMAX brand name to be used. These specifications are not anything like the IMAX that we are used to, with smaller screens. The article did mention that the sound and picture quality wound be very good, but will come with a higher ticket price.

Movie tickets already cost too much, imo.

I can't find the article right now. Darn. It was very interesting.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009 6:40 PM

Movie tickets already cost too much, imo.

I think $30 (just for the tix!), for a family of four to see a movie is pretty steep! It's close to $50 by the time they gouge you for popcorn & snacks!

On the other side of the coin, I could probably make a better movie than 90% of the garbage out there. In fact, i've been kicking around a title & story in my head for months.

The title? "700 Miles to Sandusky." Wanna guess what the theme is? ;)

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009 7:58 PM

^^LK, yes, I recall that discussion from a month or two ago (maybe when IMAX made their initial announcement of these "business arangements"?)...doesn't mean Universal's won't be top-notch, only that you can't depend on the IMAX name anymore.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009 9:16 PM

LostKause said:
Movie tickets already cost too much, imo.

What doesn't? ;)

I went to the theater for the first time in a while last month and was surprised at how great the value of a day at the park seems compared to 2 hours in the theater.

From a recent blog post of mine:

"Now people complain about amusement park prices on the various forums and I think it’s crazy. **** costs money, simple as that. Apparently these people don’t see many movies because had we paid for tickets for the 7pm showing in 3D the total would have been $50 for two adults and two children. On top of that 4 drinks and a bucket of popcorn clocks in at right around $30. (I wanna say it was $32, but if I try to remember the prices and do the math I get $27 and change – so it’s somewhere in that range)

$80 to see a 90 minute movie with basic refreshments. That’s almost a dollar a minute for a family of four…and people are ponying that up. The amusement park price whiners need to shut the **** up. Amusement parks are a great value."

For the record, I not sure it's a case of the movie theater being over priced as much as it is the amusement parks underpricing their superior entertainment product.

Not sure what this all has to do with the IMAX thing, but it was a chance to go off about prices and the cost of entertainment...again. :)

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009 11:43 PM

LostKause said:
...According to the article, IMAX has started to lease their name out, like THX, and they require a few minor specks in order to allow the IMAX brand name to be used. These specifications are not anything like the IMAX that we are used to, with smaller screens. The article did mention that the sound and picture quality wound be very good, but will come with a higher ticket price.

I'm not sure that is true. My understanding is that these dinky little multiplex IMAX theaters are using projectors, screens, and sound systems designed (well, integrated, anyway) and sold by IMAX Systems (or whatever they call themselves now). You get a pair of Christie 2K digital projectors, some IMAX lenses, and for 3D, the IMAX-spec 3D system. And you get a sound system based on the system that IMAX used for their big theaters. Supposedly, the movies are re-mastered specifically for the IMAX format (sound, image), and released to theaters by IMAX.

The problem is that these systems, while developed and sold by IMAX and therefore technically an IMAX system, is NOT the 15-perf sideways 70mm rolling-loop film system that we've come to expect from the IMAX brand name. This isn't IMAX selling their name out, this is IMAX producing an entirely new product...and in the process, basically destroying their own brand name. They managed to fool a lot of people for a while, but it ultimately means that the IMAX brand name no longer means what we all once thought it did.

--Dave Althoff, Jr

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009 12:03 AM

You know, Rideman, after reading your description, I recall that what you just wrote is much closer to what the article that I read said.

One thing that I would like to point out is that a few theaters near me use new Christie projectors, and have very good sound quality (THX?). I love the movie experience a lot, and what these theaters offer is just fine for me. Plus a ticket doesn't coast me any more than $10.

I see movies a lot to write movie reviews for the paper that I work for. I have to pay for these movie out of my own pocket.

Why do you think entertainment should cost more than it already does, Gonch? It's foreign to me for someone to want things to cost more, with the exception of me wanting Q-bots to cost more, so less people use them.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009 12:13 AM

I don't want things to cost more...just said (in the case of parks and based on comparitive entertainment costs) that they should.

After going to the movies and seeing how many people paid so much money for so little - I feel like amusement parks are easily one of the best values out there both at the gate and inside the park.

What is foreign to me is constantly complaining about the costs of things - it is what it is...and it seems that in comparison to the cost of a movie, the cost of a day at the park is a ridiculous value. One that I'd still pay WAY more for before I felt the cost was to high for what I got in return.

Using movies as the baseline for correctly priced entertainment, amusement parks are severly underpriced. That's all I'm saying. If you choose to read it another way, that's fine, I guess.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009 12:21 AM

Lord Gonchar said:

For the record, I not sure it's a case of the movie theater being over priced as much as it is the amusement parks underpricing their superior entertainment product.

Not sure what this all has to do with the IMAX thing, but it was a chance to go off about prices and the cost of entertainment...again. :)

Somewhere in this discussion, we come across the idea of entertainment costs on a per-time-unit basis. Which makes your argument about parks being "an exceptional value" rather convincing. But mow much the parks earns per hour really depends on admission plus per cap and the oft-discussed "length of visit". Sometimes I really wonder about the idea of charging admission in forms other than the currently-dominant POP. Always loved IB's "ride sessions".

Oh, and Dave's explanation of the IMAX thing sounds like a good explanation, albeit somewhat technical, ;) - of what I recall from the aforementioned IMAX discussions.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009 12:45 AM

When you are at a movie, you are being entertained for the entire duration of the movie. In an amusement park, that is not the case. When I visit parks, I take in the scenery, get some food, wait in line for the food, wait for a show, watch the show, ride some rides and wait in line for those rides. I would say that the majority of my day is not spent on rides. When I am paying at the gate, am I paying for the experience as a whole or a specific amount of time spent on rides? The "value" experience at a movie theater is infinitely more measurable, therefore more sell-able, than the "value" experience at a park.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009 1:43 AM

RideMan said:
The problem is that these systems, while developed and sold by IMAX and therefore technically an IMAX system, is NOT the 15-perf sideways 70mm rolling-loop film system that we've come to expect from the IMAX brand name. This isn't IMAX selling their name out, this is IMAX producing an entirely new product...and in the process, basically destroying their own brand name.

How so? You seem to be implying that because it's not film, it's not as good.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009 2:05 AM

rollergator said:
Somewhere in this discussion, we come across the idea of entertainment costs on a per-time-unit basis. Which makes your argument about parks being "an exceptional value" rather convincing.

Well, as a consumer, that's definitely a factor I consider - how much entertainment I get for my dollars.

Interestingly, I just came across two more examples since my last post that just reaffirm that, to me, parks are severely underpriced.

1. YoshiFan's post about the cost of a day at an indoor water park resort vs season passes at an amusement park in another thread.

2. This crazy article on the cost of attending an NFL game. (for the record, the average is $412.64 for a family of four)

That second article is a really interesting read - even touching a little on the same ideas as Andy mentions where it's about more than just the game for the money.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009 2:43 AM

Jeff said:

How so? You seem to be implying that because it's not film, it's not as good.

It's true. Even the new 4K digital projectors are still inferior to a 35mm presentation. The advantage of digital is the stable image and the real advantage is the lack of dirt and/or scratches after a film has been in release for several weeks.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009 12:00 PM

I've seen 4k, and I totally disagree. You can tell the difference in the projection obviously, and digital is a much better experience. And for acquisition, you can't tell the difference on screen between 4k and film. It can't be done by 99.99% of people.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009 3:11 PM

...Except that the IMAX system is not 4k, it is 2x2k (which, although the math seems right, is NOT the same thing at all). But that isn't the issue. The IMAX 2k system looks every bit as sharp as anyone else's 2k system, and because of the dual projectors it's actually brighter. Because it isn't film, you don't have the dust and scratches and splice marks and all that crap. There are distinct advantages and disadvantages to both film and DLP (dare I call it video? 'Cause that's what it is, though not video as we normally know it...). When I saw Star Trek, there was some fuzziness in the image, but I don't know if that was because I was seeing pixels or because of the perforated screen surface.

The issue isn't digital vs. film. It's "a little bigger" versus "freakin' HUGE".

The issue is that for those of us who grew up in the 1970's, at least, IMAX means a gigantic, immersive screen. Until recently, IMAX had four basic products and *all* of them featured gigantic screens in steeply raked auditoriums. The screen in the IMAX theater at AMC Easton where I saw Star Trek doesn't look to me to be any bigger than the cineplex screens in Auditoriums 1, 12, 13, and 24 at AMC Lennox, where I could have seen the same movie for $5 less on a bigger screen. THAT is how IMAX is cannibalizing their own brand. Clearly, IMAX doesn't mean a gigantic screen anymore. For a graphic depiction, have a look at that blog posting I mentioned earlier; he's got a scale representation of his local multiplex IMAX screen vs. one of the big museum screens.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009 3:20 PM

I saw one of the Potter flicks in the "new IMAX" format. It was worth every penny of the extra $5 (or whatever) to me, even if it wasn't "IMAX classic." As Gonch put it, I'm dropping $80 anyway, and so the marginal cost at $100 is no big shakes for a better experience.

And I, too, have seen both digital and film versions of movies, and I'll take the digitial every time AND pay more for it. To me, it is a superior experience even if there are fewer bits there---to my eye it *looks* better. This discussion reminds me of the "LPs are better than CDs" rant the audiophiles used to have (and, as far as I know, still do), and that one was crap too.

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