Last December, I went back to my local true IMAX theater to watch Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, and I made a horrible discovery: They had replaced the film projector with 4K digital.
Now IMAX is the highest fidelity film format that exists commercially, delivering over 8K of resolution in every VistaVision style sideways 70mm frame. This results in gorgeous, mindblowing, crystal clear visuals, visuals, with which even the best 4K can’t compete. The switch to 4K was doubly disappointing, because I was almost as excited to see the first sequence of The Dark Knight Rises attached to Ghost Protocol in glorious IMAX, for a double dose of Super high-resolution goodness.
Given that I paid an extra $7 for IMAX, I was understandably pissed, and even a letter to corporate didn’t amount to so much as a free pass for my missing 4K of resolution that I paid for.
Now to the good news, though.
This trend has continued, and Christopher Nolan’s new bouncing baby billion-buck Bat will quite possibly not grace the screens of any digital IMAX theaters, as, according to my local source, the same theater is ripping out the digital and putting back in the true IMAX projector, just for this movie (say hallelujah!), so I won’t have to go to New York just to experience the film as it’s meant to be.
This is not something that’s cheap to do. Even if they just pushed the system to the side, you’re probably still talking about thousands of dollars and many hours of work to put it back in place, get it in good working order, and maintain it during the run. When you make a billion dollars for a studio, you get a lot of leeway, and probably one of those concessions is to make WBs investment in a reported hour of IMAX footage worth it.
We’re probably at least 2-3 years away from a movie that’s shot 8K digital, and 4-5 years away from actual full-resolution digital IMAX projection. In the meantime, it’s good to know that people like Christopher Nolan have the power, and the vision, to insist on presentation standards for their films.
Nolan’s obsession with presentation and insistence upon the highest resolution for the IMAX sequences also means that the film’s Blu-ray release is probably going to annoy the crap out of those with home theater systems supporting constant height, ultra-wide 2.4:1 projection, the same way The Dark Knight did. Sorry guys, but the money is on your having to set it to 16:9 and forget it.