As an IMAX dome theater, we review almost all films that are released. Unfortunately, we see ourselves turning down more and more films because we feel that the technical quality is too poor to put on our dome. Our industry and our theater have always been proud of the fact that we have the best film system in the world, and even today I hear that film is still better than digital, or could be better than digital. I am convinced we still have the best projection system in the world, but it’s worth nothing if you don’t have the content to show how good it is. And to be honest, nowadays I often feel ashamed for what we put up on the screen.
It’s painful to reject a film that has a great story and a marketable subject but looks horrible on the dome, but the worst are those films that look great except for those five minutes that make it impossible for me to show without getting complaints.
This makes me wonder how the economics work for a producer. What would the investment be to make those five minutes look better, and what would the returns be if the film got played on more dome screens? I could imagine that some producers think, “Well, those dome theaters don’t have much to choose from, so they will take my film anyway. They have no choice.” But even when a producer will not get more releases, I am sure they will get longer or better runs and thus a bigger return in an industry that depends so heavily on word of mouth.
I also believe we should not underestimate the macro effect of better films for domes. We see theaters losing attendance, shutting down, and converting early (perhaps too early) to digital. For the industry as a whole it is important to keep theaters open and successful, but theaters can survive only if they have films that give the audience the WOW effect—films that really make them feel they are not in the theater anymore. They should not be able to escape from the world we send them in, and believe me, when a bad shot comes up, they notice, and they are ripped out of the illusion. They may not tell every time, and they might even have enjoyed the experience, but they will not leave the theater with the feeling that they have experienced something that blew their mind and then rave about it to others.
So I am asking producers to think about this. Make the calculations, and if it makes no financial sense to invest the extra money and effort, I would like to know as soon as possible so I don’t have to wait for our unique selling point of unparalleled quality to come back, and I can make the decision to convert our theater to digital now for the few more years we will have left. Because if we cannot offer something extraordinary, our industry will not survive.
Submitted by Berend Reijnhoudt, Executive Director of Omniversum in The Netherlands