If you want to watch your next movie in theatres and you are not able to decide between IMAX and Dolby Cinema, don’t worry because we have bought the best comparison of Dolby Cinema VS IMAX where we have compared all the aspects of these two movie theatres. The article is detailed so feel free to browse it your way with the Table of Contents below.
What is Dolby Cinema?
Dolby Cinema is Dolby Laboratories’ premium offering for modern cinemas. They combine their best-in-class technologies such as Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos in the Dolby Cinema to make it stand out among the crowd. The company introduced Dolby Cinemas in the early 2000s. You get better picture quality which has a 500 times more contrast ratio than standard theatre screens, this means the picture will have more clarity and blacks will look absolute blacks.
Dolby Atmos is an unbeatable audio standard and Dolby Cinema couples your viewing experience with this sound system which makes movies feel more life-like. The theatre uses 64-channel audio to give you an immersive 3-dimensional experience. You can find Dolby Cinema at The AMC Theatre because Dolby has partnered with AMC in April 2015 for bringing Dolby Cinema to the public. Because this is a very improved technology and required a lot of effort to deliver a great experience you won’t find these in many theatres, you will be surprised to know that Dolby Cinema is present only in 150+ theatres around the world! which is too less than IMAX’s availability to the public.
Dolby Laboratories makes technologies for reducing noise in audio, audio encoding and compression, 3D audio, and High Dynamic Range Videos. It was founded by Ray Dolby in the year 1965. The technologies from the company are used in consumer electronic devices to deliver top of quality sound. Their most notable invention is the Dolby Atmos which is a trademark for modern-day speakers and headsets that tweaks audio to make them clearer and livelier. Dolby Vision is also a worthy technology that enhances video quality by enhancing the HDR to balance the colors and upscale the content. Many televisions, smartphones, and other consumer electronics have implemented this technology and it has been a huge success.
Now, Dolby Cinema is a mixture of these two technologies which are used in a theatre to make stories more alive and impressive. Dolby vision improves the projection quality in theatre to deliver a video with more contrast and better clarity which is much better than traditional theatres.
Dolby Atmos is the industry’s best technology that delivers an immersive sound experience to listeners. They offer a spatial sound that creates a 3D space in which you can feel sounds from all directions. This spatial sound system is incorporated in theatres and now in speakers, headphones, and smartphones. The more speakers you have with a home theatre the more spatial the sound will be. With the invention of height channels, Dolby Atmos has done wonders in using them as well. You get the sounds and sensation of rain, storms, and everything precisely which is on top of you. Apple uses Dolby Atmos in all of its AirPods to deliver the spatial audio feature.
You may have noticed DTS in the market which made DTS:X and DTS Virtual:X, these are the competitors to Dolby Atmos. But, because Dolby has so much experience in the audio industry Dolby is certainly the better in this regard. Dolby Atmos-enabled theatres use 5 in-screen speakers, that fire audio in front of the viewer, 48 surround speakers directed at different angles, and 4 subwoofers responsible for bass levels. This allows the viewer to hear 128 different audio tracks.
Dolby Laboratory’s Dolby Vision is a technology that delivers a never-before-seen visual experience. It is used only in specific theatres because the technology requires dual 4K laser projectors for projecting a better image than in traditional theatres. Dolby Vision uses a different definition of HDR to reimagine content.
You might have noticed HDR10 in the market, it is a kind of HDR technology that supports 10-bit color production. Dolby Vision is a notch upwards of HDR10, rather than using a 10-bit color reproduction, it uses a 12-bit color reproduction technology. Now, 10-bit colors mean HDR10 can support 1 billion colors, but 12-bit color means Dolby Vision can support 68 billion colors. So, the number of colors supported is way more than the HDR10.
HDR is a High Dynamic Range that intelligently sets the brightness of different frames individually. When the video is made the data of the brightness of different is adjusted and screens that support HDR use this metadata to tweak the brightness between different frames. As a result, you get better color generation with more clarity.
Dolby and AMC
AMC is a theatre chain that is praised for its best theatre quality, taking comfort, screen quality, audio quality, hygiene, food, and everything into account. AMC used to show movies before 2015 in AMC Prime which is a movie format that delivered better video and audio than traditional theatres.
In 2015, AMC and Dolby partnered to bring Dolby Cinema to AMC theatres. Dolby Cinema requires high investment for bringing video and audio to life, every theatre company cannot make such a huge investment as the increased investment would also mean more ticket prices. Most customers won’t make an expensive purchase to go to theatres. Because of this reason, you will find Dolby Cinema only in 150+ theatres which includes only AMC theatres.
After the partnership between AMC and Dolby, Dolby redesigned the AMC theatres with reclining chairs and a greater number of speakers including height channels as well to match their requirements. The theatre capacity becomes low due to all the chairs being recliners which means you get fewer footfalls and you have to increase the cost of each ticket.
Best Theater with Dolby Cinema
The AMC Dine in Studio 28 is a premium theatre with an extra restaurant. You get good food and great film both in one place. This AMC theatre is located near Olathe Kansas. You get almost every type of screen under one roof. Dolby Cinema as well as IMAX is available in this theatre.
The sitting quality is great. The comfort inside the theatre room is absolutely satisfactory. The hygiene is well maintained and the staff is also good. There are numerous screens in the theatre and you get many choices in terms of timing. All the movies are bought in this theatre. The air conditioning is very well maintained and the sound and video quality inside the theatre is very good.
The restaurant is an added benefit and the food quality is great. They have nearly all common types of cuisine and you get a good sitting area.
What is IMAX?
IMAX is a company that manufactures high-resolution camera lenses, film codecs, projectors, and various other equipment used in movie theatres. You can easily spot the difference between IMAX and standard screens by the screen size.
The massive screen size in IMAX theatre enables viewers to see more detail and more clarity than normal theatre screens. Also, IMAX production requires special camera lenses which are wide. These are 70mm in diameter compared to only 35mm in diameter in normal movie lenses. IMAX was created in 1971 but started coming to fame in the 2000s.
Earlier only documentaries were filmed but slowly Hollywood directors started adopting to IMAX camera and today there are many films shot with IMAX lenses. “Avenger: Infinity War” was the first film that was recorded entirely in IMAX lenses. IMAX lenses are very difficult to move and have many restrictions compared to normal lenses which are why production cost is very high for IMAX films. Many directors only shot particular frames in IMAX and the rest of the film in the normal lens.
IMAX cameras are heavy and big compared to normal film cameras. You can see the difference that an IMAX camera is nearly 110 Kg in weight compared to only 18 Kg weight of normal cameras. This immense weight allows only for the limited motion because you will need better and strong rigs to support this camera. Action scenes which require quick motions of the camera are very difficult to shoot and are therefore not very widely used.
IMAX cameras also use a 70mm lens which catches more details than normal lenses. You get only a 3-minute shot with one spool and you have to again change the spool which takes an additional 20 minutes of time. The requirement of patience is very much for making films using these cameras. The cost of a single IMAX camera is hundred of thousands of dollars which is a barrier for many producers as well. There are 12000-18000 lines of 18K Horizontal resolution captured by an IMAX camera, this requires more space and more processing power for the post-production of films.
The Screen in IMAX theatres are very large which is why you get a wider view of the film than in normal screens. This wide view becomes more immersive and life-like but also means you have to carefully place each seat so that every viewer gets an even viewing experience. The seats in IMAX theatres are placed at more steep angles than normal screens.
Normal screens are rectangular shaped so a less steep angle helps viewers to see from everywhere. In IMAX though more steep angles become more favorable for viewers and because of the height is more the last seat and the first seat came easily see the screen. Also, the seats are reclined because of your freedom to adjust your angle.
There are nearly 1500 IMAX screens across 80 different countries according to the official website and so it is very likely you will find a similar screen in your city as well. IMAX screens are available in 2D and 3D also.
IMAX movies feel great in theaters because of the projectors they use to project images on the big screen. The projectors are normally dual 2K projectors in IMAX theatres. Nowadays, many theatres also use dual 4K projectors for improved quality of video. Because of high resolution, you also get to see more color gamut and increased clarity than normal screens. The placement of these projectors is a very big necessity because if the placement is wrong the whole experience can get ruined.
IMAX projectors are also closer to the screen than normal projectors which also increases the sharpness of the video. The aspect ratio of the screen is 1.90:1 as compared to only 2.40:1 in normal screens. This aspect ratio results in wider images for better viewing.
Because IMAX screens are so huge the theater needs to be installed with better and louder speakers than normal theatres. The Screen size also requires precision speakers because the farthest viewer should also have the same experience as the nearest viewer. The speaker system used in an IMAX theatre is normally a 12-channel speaker which means you will listen to audio from 12 different angles but many theatres only install a 6-channel speaker system. These may vary from theatre to theatre but usually, you will be able to notice the difference between the sound in a normal theatre and in an IMAX theatre.
IMAX theatres are large and usually dome-shaped which also means the audio fired from speakers bounces at different angles before reaching your ears which creates a spatial audio experience. The woofers installed in these theatres are very powerful and give that thumping effect far better than in normal theatres.
Best Theaters with IMAX
The Darling Harbour IMAX in Sydney, Australia is the biggest IMAX screen in the world. It has 96.5 feet tall and 117.2 feet wide screen which is insane. The place is one of the most iconic places in Sydney and a great tourist spot. The theatre uses two 15,000-watt projectors that light up the entire screen for the viewers. The theatre has a max capacity of 540 seats and the projectors become so hot due to the huge electricity consumption that they require 1,600 cubic meters of air and 36 liters of distilled water to be passed through the projector chamber every minute.
You feel movies come to life in this huge hall and if you opt for a 3D experience you will have a great experience.
Dolby Cinema VS IMAX
The image quality in Dolby Cinema is far better than any other standard theatre. The image is crisp and clear, you can feel the images to be livelier and the audio-visual experience is top-notch. The Images on the Dolby Cinema also have 500 times more contrast ratio than other normal projectors and you’ll be getting the best possible image quality on a screen unlike any other. Also, because of such quality, Dolby Cinema is a very rare opportunity for people because there is only a handful of screens available as compared to IMAX.
IMAX also has a high image quality but it is not better than Dolby Cinema. The images on IMAX are wider and have an aspect ratio of 1.90:1. They require dual 4K projectors to lit up the giant screens. But, because of this many theatres are only using dual 2K projectors which don’t deliver the true IMAX experience. These screens have emerged in recent times and IMAX also advertises these screens the same as their original ones and as a result, the public has named these screens “LieMAX”.
IMAX is the winner in this category because the image’s aspect ratio used in IMAX is 1.90:1 which is way bigger than the standard as well as Dolby Cinema screen. You get an extra 26% more screen area as compared to other screens. The more area allows you to see more details and more pictures than any other screen. IMAX was earlier only used to display nature documentaries but slowly it has come into mainstream cinema and “Avengers: Infinity War” is the first movie that was shot entirely in IMAX.
IMAX also has a recording resolution of 18K or 12,000-18,000 which captures more details than a normal camera. For this reason, if you want to attain IMAX quality you need a different camera and normal cameras won’t do the job. Dolby Cinema on the other uses a small aspect ratio and smaller screen as compared to IMAX, so IMAX will offer a more immersive experience.
Audio quality in Dolby Cinema is obviously better because they use Dolby Atmos technology for delivering sound. Dolby Atmos is already the industry beast in delivering high-quality audio. They have successfully worked for decades and there are currently more than 5000 Dolby Atmos-enabled theatres around the world. Dolby Cinema at AMC is one notch upgrade over the standard Dolby Atmos theatres because AMC installed low-frequency transducers under the seats so that viewers can feel all the low frequency from their seats.
Moreover, Dolby Cinema uses a 64-channel audio system that produces more than 128 different frequencies as compared to only 12-channel audio systems in IMAX. If we tell the audio at Dolby Cinema feels great then, audio in IMAX theatres will feel good, and audio in standard theatres will feel from fine to worst. You can imagine the quality of the audio from that last line. When you are watching a movie in Dolby Cinema you will feel every small detail in the movie precisely, every movement, every emotion, and every sound.
Dolby Cinema has plush leather chairs that are wide. These are recliners and you can adjust them as per your needs. You will have no problem watching a long movie in these chairs because they are so soft and the cushions feel like a bed. These chairs are spacious and because of this, the capacity in theatres is less as compared to standard ones. The chairs are maintained properly and are cleaned regularly after every session. The hygiene is well maintained throughout the theatre.
IMAX on the other hand has normal chairs. These chairs are recliners but won’t give you much comfort as compared to Dolby Cinema. These are less spacious and long sessions will require you to readjust yourself several times throughout the film. Because IMAX is available in so many theatres, their quality is not maintained equally among all the theatres, for which there are many places where hygiene is not maintained and chairs might be torn and faulty. You’ll have to bet on comfort before going to an IMAX theatre but that won’t happen if you visit a Dolby Cinema theatre.
2D and 3D
If you want to watch 3D films you have to go to IMAX because Dolby Cinemas don’t play 3D films at the moment. 3D IMAX looks immersive and great when compared to standard screens because of the screen size, the characters in the films feel like they are coming out of the screen. If you want to watch a 2D film then you have to choose between IMAX and Dolby Cinema because the latter is better compared to the former. If you want to watch 2D in IMAX then lookout for fake IMAX screens which are also called “Lie-MAX” these theatres charge you the same amount as IMAX screens but won’t deliver that same great experience.
I would say go to a Dolby Cinema theatre but because Dolby Cinema is not available everywhere you should read reviews of different theatres playing IMAX films. Read the reviews of the visitors and listen to locals before going to such a place.
IMAX is kind of everywhere. There are more than 1500 screens across 80 countries and you will very likely find one in your city. Dolby Cinema, on the other hand, have very few screens, around 195 of which 127 screens are installed in the US. So, it is very rare to find a Dolby Cinema theatre. Dolby Cinema’s availability is so less because of the amount needed to invest in their theatres plus there will be very less capacity as compared to IMAX which will make the ticket prices costlier and as a result of there being fewer footfalls, the theatre will not be able to make money as compared to IMAX screens.
Dolby Cinema is great if you want to watch 2D films. They are expensive but very comfortable and will make your audio visual very immersive.
IMAX is also great if you want to watch 2D films but beware of the fake IMAX screens. If you want to watch 3D films then IMAX is much better than anything else.
You can also check out this article: QLED vs UHD TVs- Which is best for you? (2023)
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Dolby Cinema better than IMAX?
Dolby Cinemas have better video quality because of Dolby Vision which creates more color and 500 times more contrast than IMAX screens. Plus, Dolby Cinema uses Dolby Atmos to bring sounds to real life.
Which is better – IMAX or Dolby?
Both are better in different ways. If you want a good experience in low cost then IMAX is great but if you want a great experience with very comfortable recliner chairs and the best audio visual delight then Dolby Cinema is better. But, if you want to watch 3D films then IMAX is a better option.