When you go to the movie theater, you typically have a few options to choose from IMAX or a regular movie theater. However, there is another option that is slowly being introduced to movie theaters in America: 4DX. However, is IMAX or 4DX better?
IMAX movie theaters are better than 4DX when the movie being shown does not have a lot of action scenes, like a drama or comedy. However, when the movie being shown has many action scenes, 4DX is better than IMAX. However, IMAX is available in more movie theaters than 4DX.
If you would like to know more about IMAX and 4DX theaters, keep reading.
Also read: Dolby Cinema vs IMAX: Which Offers a Better Experience?
Overview of IMAX
You likely have heard of IMAX, which is short for Maximum Image, as IMAX theaters are available in movie theaters across America. Many of the movies that I have seen throughout my life have been IMAX, even movies that I watched in my home.
IMAX was founded by Graeme Ferguson, Roman Kroitor, Robert Kerr, and William Shaw around 1967. William Shaw was an engineer, while the other founders were filmmakers.
At first, the movies made by IMAX were educational, but in the 1990s, the types of films they made shifted from education to entertainment. This was aided by the fact that in 2000, IMAX collaborated with Disney to make Fantasia. After Fantasia, IMAX became more well-known until it eventually became the gold standard for movies. (Source)
Tickets to an IMAX theater are more expensive than movie tickets to traditional theaters, as some movie theaters have both IMAX and regular theaters, but many people find that the extra cost is worth it because of the more immersive experience.
IMAX theaters have extremely large screens that have extremely high resolutions and extremely large loudspeakers.
Put together, they create an immersive movie-watching experience for moviegoers. However, the screens, speakers, and projectors are not the only components that go into making an IMAX movie, as the cameras used to film IMAX movies should not be forgotten about.
IMAX makes its own high-resolution cameras, projectors, theaters, and film formats. These factors ensure that the movie will fill the entire theater screen and be of high quality. IMAX makes their own projectors to put in movie theaters to ensure the quality, specifications, size, and more.
In movie theaters, theaters that will show IMAX films are specially designed by the company to ensure you can enjoy the film being shown to the fullest.
The screens in IMAX movie theaters are extremely large, ranging from about 50 to 60 feet wide and about 20 feet tall.
This large screen size is much larger than the screens in traditional movie theaters and ensures that you can clearly see small details on the screen no matter where you are sitting in the theater. Have you ever noticed the screen expand as the trailers start? If you have, you are likely in an IMAX theater.
IMAX theaters have speakers behind the screen that enhance the sound and ensure that you hear everything clearly. The seats are placed in a way to ensure that no matter where you are sitting, you will always be facing the screen, even though the large screen is curved.
Also, the chairs in IMAX theaters are often quite large and can lean back slightly to ensure your comfort. Some IMAX theater seats are considered recliners, although that varies by the movie theater.
According to IMAX, IMAX theaters, screens, sound systems, and movies have the following:
- Dual Projection
- Unparalleled brightness
- Brilliant clarity
- Hand-Crafted Re-Mastering
- Perfect execution of the director’s vision.
- Heightened Realism
- Custom, reflective screens that are extra bright.
- Pitch-Perfect Tuning
- Perfectly tuned sound
- Endless Sweet Spot
- There are no bad seats in an IMAX theatre.
- Pin-Point Accuracy
- Laser-aligned audio placement
IMAX regularly remasters the films they show in what is called DMR to ensure the quality of the sound and visuals of the film they are working on. This allows for a more immersive experience so you enjoy the movie more.
Oftentimes, directors will shoot the film in IMAX because they want watchers to become immersed in the movie, so they want you to see it in an IMAX theater rather than a normal one.
If a director or filmmaker doesn’t shoot a movie in IMAX, but their movie will be shown in an IMAX theater, the sound will have to be re-recorded.
The visual aspects of the film can be remastered relatively easily, but the sound quality will likely need to be improved so it can meet IMAX’s standards. Even when a film is shot with IMAX cameras and the sound is of high quality, the sound will often be remixed to ensure the quality. (Source)
The quality of IMAX’s 3D films is spectacular, as it is an immersive experience and you can easily notice small details that you wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.
Sometimes, IMAX theaters will have food services available so you don’t have to move from your seat during the movie. However, this will vary by the movie theater and movie.
If your IMAX movie theater doesn’t offer food services, you can always purchase drinks and snacks from the concessions in the lobby. (Source)
Also read: Imax Home Theater Cost And Setup Guide
Now that you know more about IMAX and the movie theaters that show IMAX films, let’s find out more about 4DX movie theaters.
Overview of 4DX
4DX was released in 2018 by CJ 4DPLEX, which is one of the reasons why it is called 4DX. However, it is not as well-known as IMAX, as 4DX has only been released for about 4 years, and for about two of those years movie theaters were closed or had a very limited number of seats available.
4DX movie theaters feature seats that move and various effects in the actual theater, near the seats, that create an immersive movie-watching experience, more so than IMAX theaters because these movie theaters utilize all of your senses, not just your eyes and ears.
4DX movie theaters create a 4D movie-watching experience, so if you do not often become immersed in movies, you likely will become immersed in the movie when you watch it in a 4DX movie theater. (Source)
Listed below are the effects that are in place in a 4DX movie theater.
- Sway and Twist
- Pitch (Backward or Forward)
- Heave (Up or Down)
- Back Shaker
- Bottom Shaker
- Back Tickles
- Bottom Tickles
- Face air
- Air Shots
- Various Scents
- Warm Air
- Fog storm
There are over 755 movie theaters that can show 4DX movies across the United States and other countries, as the experience can also be found in movie theaters in about 65 different countries across the world.
Unfortunately, not everyone likes to watch 4DX movies for various reasons. One reason is that many people find the supposed sweeping motions that the seats are supposed to make to be jarring and sometimes jerky.
Also, many 4DX movies, especially ones that have been adjusted to be shown in 4DX theaters, don’t utilize 4DX features throughout the movie, making it so will be immersed in the movie for part of the film rather than the entirety of it. (Source)
Many people find that the bubble and fog effects that may seem to be extremely cool end up blocking the screen, drawing you out of the immersive movie-watching experience that you paid for.
The wind noises also tend to drown out the dialogue of the movie, making it hard for you to understand exactly what is happening afterward, as you don’t know what the characters said to cause the action or scenarios that happen directly afterward.
Installing and maintaining the scents, fog, bubbles, rain, wind, moving seats, and more effects that are supposed to help create an immersive movie-watching experience that you paid for is costly, and those costs will be passed on to you when you purchase movie theater tickets.
Also, people could be allergic to scents being used to immerse you in a certain movie, even if common scents are being used. This can be extremely dangerous.
The scents and other effects can also become overwhelming for many viewers, including the seats moving unexpectedly. The moving seats can also be distracting, especially during intense action sequences. (Source)
IMAX vs 4DX – Which Is Better?
In my opinion, IMAX movie theaters are better than 4DX movie theaters. However, which type of movie theater is best for the movie you plan on watching will vary depending on your preferences and the type of movie being shown.
For example, if the movie that you plan on watching is a comedy, drama, or is extremely story-driven, you don’t want to go to a 4DX theater, as there will be few action scenes and although the scents and other effects may be pleasant, the seats will hardly move, which is the main feature advertised for 4DX theaters.
I don’t know about you, but I would find the scents, wind, and moving seats extremely distracting and disconcerting while watching a movie in a 4DX movie theater, especially the tickling and rolling effects.
I don’t want anything tickling my back, but I especially don’t want anything to tickle my back while I am watching a movie. Talk about creepy.
Also, when the seat moves I would feel like I would need a seatbelt so I don’t have to clutch the armrests with all my strength. The last thing I need is to walk out of the movie theater with whiplash. It would also be hard to keep my popcorn and drink from spilling onto the floor.
The big screen, high-quality sound, and high-quality pictures that IMAX movie theaters provide are enough to create an immersive movie-watching experience. Many people agree with me, which is one of the main reasons why IMAX is so popular across the world.
|IMAX Movie Theater||4DX Movie Theater||Regular Movie Theater|
|Screen Size||50-60 feet wide, 20 feet tall||Smaller screen (exact size varies)||45-50 feet wide|
|Ticket Cost||More expensive than regular movie theater tickets. Cost about $16-$20||$24-$30 (less for seniors)||$8-$15 (varies by the movie theater)|
|Availability||Available across the U.S. and multiple countries||Available across the U.S. and multiple countries||Available across the U.S. and multiple countries|
|3D||3D Available Often||Not often offered in 3D||3D Available Often|
Overall, both 4DX and IMAX movie theaters create immersive experiences for movie watchers. However, many people find that 4DX movie theaters create more immersive experiences, but it is easy to be jarred out of the immersion because of the moving seats and fog or bubbles blocking the screen.
Meanwhile, IMAX movie theaters utilize technology that the company has created and perfected over the years, including an extremely large, curved screen, to draw you into the story of the movie being shown.
Many people consider IMAX movie theaters and movies to be the best way you can watch a movie, and many movie directors and filmmakers agree with their audiences. There is a reason why so many films are advertised as “IMAX” films.
IMAX films can feature any type of film, while 4DX theaters are relatively useless and the experience is lackluster when drama, comedy, and story-driven films are shown.
4DX has only been utilized for about 4 years, so the technology is still being improved. Although 4DX movie theaters are becoming more popular across the United States, these types of theaters are not as widespread as IMAX theaters.
Consider what your experience will be watching the movie at home before deciding what type of movie theater you should go to when a movie you want to see is released.
With IMAX movies, when you watch them at home you can view them in the same or similar resolution as you watched them in the theater, meaning you will enjoy the movie when you watch it at home and in the theater.
Meanwhile, if you watch a movie in a 4DX theater and decide to purchase or stream it at home, you likely won’t enjoy it as much, as you won’t be as immersed in the film.
Ultimately, it is up to you which type of theater you want to go to when you watch the next newly-released movie that you are interested in.
Because of the technology that IMAX uses to film and the remastering done to films that have not been filmed with high-quality IMAX cameras but will be shown in IMAX movie theaters, the major cost difference between IMAX and 4DX movie theater tickets, and the availability of IMAX theaters, as I don’t know of any 4DX movie theaters in my area, I will likely stick to IMAX movie theaters rather than 4DX movie theaters.
Thanks for reading! Also check out IMAX vs Standard – Key Differences
Jason is a home theater expert with over 10 years of experience in setting up home cinema rooms and systems. What started out as a hobby soon transformed him into an authority in the audio-visual field. He is passionate about providing readers with accurate and up-to-date information on the latest audiovisual technologies and their applications for home theaters. Read more about Jason.