Imax has arrived in Snohomish County.
The AMC Loews theater at Alderwood Mall is now home to one of the largest screens in the region, thanks to a newly remodeled auditorium and a new screen that can display movies digitally remastered for Imax’s bigger and brighter sights and sounds.
Jeannine Spencer, 54, and Greg McCarty, 55, both of Mukilteo, are devotees of Imax films, especially those shown in 3D.
They were delighted to have a new Imax theater closer to home for a recent matinee showing of “How to Train Your Dragon.”
They say the $5 or $6 increase in ticket price for Imax or Imax 3D movies is definitely worth it.
They saw “Avatar” in Imax 3D and found the experience to be incredibly immersive.
“You see things go by you,” McCarty said. “You’re wrapped up in it.”
That’s the reaction Canada-based Imax Corp. is hoping for as it swiftly works its way into multiplex theaters nationwide.
Its new Alderwood screen brings the total number of Imax screens in the greater Seattle area to seven.
Big, not gargantuan
Imax became a household name in the 1990s with its giant screens and award-winning historical and nature-focused documentaries.
Today, such screens, including the Boeing Imax at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, are called classic Imax.
The Boeing Imax screen towers six stories high at 60 feet tall and 80 feet wide and showcases a variety of films, including Hollywood hits.
AMC’s new screen at Alderwood is comparatively much smaller at 35 feet high and 63 feet wide, about 25 percent larger than a typical multiplex screen.
It is a multiplex-style Imax, created by removing the existing screen and the first few rows of seats and adding a new, slightly curved Imax screen closer to the audience.
When Imax first started converting multiplex auditoriums into Imax theaters in 2003, some movie fans were disappointed in the screen size.
“They thought they were paying for the seven-story gargantuan dome experience,” said AMC spokesman Justin Scott, adding that Imax multiplex technology isn’t just about screen size.
Alderwood’s new Imax features the company’s latest digital, dual-projection technology.
Films digitally remastered for Imax are designed to be brighter, clearer and better in terms of contrast.
They’re also remastered for Imax sound systems, which are tailored to each auditorium with laser-precise installation.
Enhanced sound is what ultimately sold Scott on the Imax experience.
“When I saw ‘Avatar,’ I thought there were bugs in the forest of Pandora flying behind my ears,” Scott said. “It makes you feel like you’re in the movie. It’s the sight and sound.”
Imax spokesman Jackson Myers said Imax audio goes far beyond traditional surround sound. Alderwood’s system include speakers behind the screen as well as speaker clusters tucked into various corners of the auditorium.
“You can have a rocket launch and have it at a realistic, rocket-launch volume without distortion,” Myers said. “You could also hear something as small and precise as a pin drop.”
D-Box in Monroe
Snohomish County will play host to another new technology designed to lure movie fans away from their flat-screen TVs and Netflix queues.
Select rows in one of the Monroe multiplex’s auditoriums have been converted to assigned-seating D-Box seats. Each seat has its own arm rests and costs moviegoers about $8 more than a regular seat.
D-Box spokesman Guy Marcoux said when people try to imagine D-Box seating, they think of Disneyland rides.
But that’s wrong.
“We’re not there to jolt you around, unlike theme park rides,” Marcoux said. “We are trying to replicate as much as possible what you feel in real life.”
Think of a car chase: “You would be feeling all those subtle textures of the road,” Marcoux said. “If you would switch from pavement to a dirt road, you would feel the difference. We’re only adding motion when it’s justified.”
Premium experiences such as Imax, 3D and even D-Box seats, which came on the scene in April 2009, aren’t hurting box office numbers.
In 2009, box office totals in the U.S. and Canada reached $10.6 billion, up more than 20 percent over five years ago. In 2009, the industry also hit a five-year high in individual ticket sales.
The Motion Picture Association of America attributed much of the industry’s growth last year to 3D movie ticket sales, which brought in $1.1 billion in 2009.
Modern moviegoing is all about options, Scott said.
“When people leave their home and go to the movies, they want the choice of, ‘Wow, I can see ‘Avatar’ in Imax 3D and get that stunning experience,” he said. “We give our guests three choices for movies.”
Sarah Jackson: 425-339-3037, firstname.lastname@example.org.
AMC Loews Alderwood Mall 16: 18733 33rd Ave. W., Lynnwood; 425-921-2980; www.amcentertainment.com; www.imax.com Tickets: Prices after 4 p.m. start at $10. They jump to $13 to $14 for 3D movies, $15 for Imax and $16 for Imax 3D. Morning and matinee tickets start at $6 and $8, respectively.
Other films that have been digitally remastered for Imax screens will follow the current releases of “How to Train Your Dragon” and “Alice in Wonderland.”
“Iron Man 2” (May 7)
“Shrek Forever After” (May 21)
“Toy Story 3” (June 18)
“Twilight Saga: Eclipse” (June 30)
“Inception” (July 16)
“Tron: Legacy” (December)