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What is the difference between a regular movie theater and an IMAX theater?

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Quick Answer

The size and shape of the movie screen and the type of projector in an IMAX theater are a few characteristics that distinguish it from a regular movie heater. IMAX is proprietary technology, including software, architecture and equipment that IMAX pioneered.

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Full Answer

Regular movie theater projectors are smaller than IMAX projectors, which can accommodate special IMAX film. Regular movie film is typically 35 millimeters in width, whereas IMAX film is 70 millimeters in width, or 15 perforations wide. IMAX film is a horizontal variant of standard 70-millimeter film, so the picture area is slightly larger and sharper. Owing to this larger picture area, 70-millimeter film and special IMAX cameras capture much more detail per frame than 35-millimeter film.

An IMAX theater projector casts images onto a screen that is potentially 76 feet by 97 feet, which is sufficient to reveal all of the detail contained in each frame. A regular movie theater screen is roughly 28 by 58 feet. The immense IMAX screen is hemispherical, and it stands within a special IMAX dome. The visual effect of the wraparound screen immerses the viewer's eye completely.

An IMAX projector can weigh up to 2 tons and requires more space than a regular movie projector. IMAX projectors load film through the top of the projector, a special vacuum draws the film through the projector horizontally, and the shutter opens for a longer period of time per frame over a much brighter bulb than in a regular movie projectors. These technical factors result in an image on the screen that differentiates a regular movie theater from an IMAX theater.

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