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IMAX is a proprietary system of high-resolution cameras, film formats, film projectors, and theaters known for having very large screens with a tall
When IMAX was introduced, it was a radical change in the movie-going experience. Viewers were treated to the scene of a gently-curved giant screen more than seven stories tall (75 feet (23 m), with the tallest measuring 117 feet (36 m)) and steep stadium seating that made for a visually immersive experience. This was enhanced by a sound system that was far superior to the audio at typical theaters in the years prior to the advent of
With the advent of digital projection, the IMAX brand has also been applied to lower-resolution imaging systems, causing some degree of confusion among the viewing public.
The IMAX film standard uses
The desire to increase the visual impact of film has a long history. In 1929,
The single-projector/single-camera system they eventually settled upon was designed and built by Shaw based upon a novel "Rolling Loop" film-transport technology purchased from Peter Ronald Wright Jones, a machine shop worker from Brisbane, Australia. Film projectors do not continuously flow the film in front of the bulb, but instead "stutter" the film travel so that each frame can be illuminated in a momentarily-paused still image. This requires a mechanical apparatus to buffer the jerky travel of the film strip. The older technology of running 70 mm film vertically through the projector used only five sprocket perforations on the sides of each frame; however, the IMAX method used fifteen perforations per frame. The previous mechanism was inadequate to handle this intermittent mechanical movement that was three times longer, and so Jones's invention was necessary for the novel IMAX projector method with its horizontal film feed. As it became clear that a single, large-screen image had more impact than multiple smaller ones and was a more viable product direction, Multiscreen changed its name to IMAX. Cofounder Graeme Ferguson explained how the name IMAX originated:
"... the incorporation date [of the company was] September 1967. ... [The name change] came a year or two later. We first called the company Multiscreen Corporation because that, in fact, was what people knew us as. ... After about a year, our attorney informed us that we could never copyright or trademark Multivision. It was too generic. It was a descriptive word. The words that you can copyright are words like Kleenex or Xerox or Coca-Cola. If the name is descriptive, you can’t trademark it so you have to make up a word. So we were sitting at lunch one day in a Hungarian restaurant in Montreal and we worked out a name on a placemat on which we wrote all the possible names we could think of. We kept working with the idea of maximum image. We turned it around and came up with IMAX."
The name change actually happened more than two years later, because a key patent filed on January 16, 1970, was assigned under the original name Multiscreen Corporation, Limited. IMAX Chief Administration Officer Mary Ruby was quoted as saying, "Although many people may think "IMAX" is an
Another IMAX 3D theatre was also built in Spokane; however, its screen-size is less than half. Due to protests, the City of Spokane officials decided to work with the IMAX Corporation to demolish the theatre, under the condition they renovate the former US Pavilion itself into IMAX's first permanent outdoor giant-screen theatre. The plan was to use material on the inside of the structure similar to that used when first constructed. However, it was expected to last only five years, due to weather conditions destroying previous materials. Concept art has been released in videos featured on Spokane's renovation site, and its budget revealed that seating is planned for more than 2,000.
The first permanent IMAX Dome installation, the Eugene Heikoff and Marilyn Jacobs Heikoff Dome Theatre at the
In 2008, IMAX extended their brand into traditional theaters with the introduction of Digital IMAX, a lower-cost system that uses two 2K digital projectors to project on a 1.90:1 aspect ratio screen. This lower-cost option, which allowed for the conversion of existing
Switching to digital projection, introduced in July 2008, came at a steep cost in image quality, with
Since 2002, some feature films have been converted into IMAX format for displaying in IMAX theatres, and some have also been (partially) shot in IMAX. By late 2017, 1,302 IMAX theatre systems were installed in 1,203 commercial multiplexes, 13 commercial destinations, and 86 institutional settings in 75 countries, with less than a quarter of these having the capability to show 70mm film at the resolution of the large format as originally conceived.