I haven’t been to IMAX since I was a kid, at one of the original IMAX theatres in Toronto (Ontario Place). I therefore delayed this post until I had a proper 2011 experience. I went to the IMAX version of Contagion at the downtown AMC theatre in Toronto.  After two minutes in the theatre,  I realized their main issue that needs fixing: IMAX comes in so many shapes and sizes and has a hard time explaining to consumers what they will get.

Aziz is angry with IMAX

The most popular (and funny) recent description of IMAX confusion comes from NBC show Parks and Recreation‘s Aziz Ansari, who raged against IMAX a few months ago and demanded his $5 IMAX surcharge back, after he felt he didn’t really get an IMAX experience.

Aziz’s diagram illustrates the point about “real” or original IMAX and “fake” or new IMAX:

IMAX comparisons

In brand terms, IMAX is struggling with its brand architecture.

  1. Positioning: It doesn’t know what makes IMAX different and better, so relies on long lists of interesting features instead
  2. Navigation: It doesn’t know how to explain and clarify the (considerable) differences between various IMAX options available to consumers

IMAX thinks its positioning is “better picture, better sound, better screens” but people who have known the brand since the start think it’s “REALLY big screens with better pictures and sound”.  IMAX marketing messages have not caught up with the business realities that have forced them to insert IMAX experience into regular theatres. To make matters worse, major improvements in picture, sound quality, 3D enhancements and tactile experiences in “normal” movies and theatres have made the IMAX “difference” negligible in those multiplex situations, leading to disappointment.

IMAX would benefit from renaming, or at least clarifying the difference between, the multiple types of IMAX theatre available. They try to explain on their website but it’s very confusing.

IMAX 3D Theatres: Located in multiplexes, sometimes 3D and sometimes 2D. Screen Sizes vary from 47′ x 24′ to 74′ x 46′

IMAX Theatres: Typically located in purpose-built buildings and auditoriums, thereby allowing a larger screen size and seat capacity. Sometimes 3D and Sometimes 2D. Screen Sizes vary from 51′ x 37′ to 117′ x 96′

IMAX Dome: Come in various sizes and located in purpose-built buildings and auditoriums, thereby allowing a larger screen size and seat capacity. Uses IMAX’s Dome projection system using a customized fisheye lens. Screens wrap around the audience in a 180 degree dome shape.

That was actually a simplification on how IMAX describes things. My quick fix:

Architecture: IMAX Classic Dome, IMAX Classic, IMAX for Multiplex

Positioning: IMAX Multiplex makes regular movies look and sound bigger. IMAX Classic is the biggest, most immersive movie experience.


IMAX, you need to confuse people less, and surprise people positively (not negatively like you did with Aziz). Don’t rely on a big list of features to differentiate. Finally, hire me to help you simplify and clarify.


Join the conversation! 1 Comment

  1. Like!
    This is the precise reason I’ve shy’d away from recent IMAX movies.
    My first experience was in the Vancouver dome. I loved it..I was blown away…I wanted more. It was so unique.

    So I went to an IMAX movie in Toronto shortly after – and was disappointed with the IMAX experience given. It wasn’t even close to the same experience! The movie experience wasn’t larger than life…larger than a regular screen…but nothing to have made the drive to Toronto for.

    So now I’ve given into contacting IMAX theaters prior to attending, to see the size and shape of the screen. It’s unfortunate – and you hit the nail on the head.

    I agree – I hope they see this article and hire you on. Because a customer shouldn’t have to call a theater to understand the experience. That’s just too much of an investment in time and thought.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Brand Architecture, Brand Positioning, Signposts