Yes, I am Insane

Lets get something straight. I like IMAX a lot. Maybe I’m putting it too mildly, I don’t ‘like’ anything. I either love it to pieces or hate it. I think the following will make it clear how I feel about IMAX.

I’ve seen Matrix Revolutions and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban at IMAX and they were great! Experiencing Matrix Revolutions at IMAX in particular was far better than at a normal cinema and the standards of Thai cinema are pretty high as it stands. What I don’t understand is why does IMAX in Thailand struggle? Thai people absolutely love films!

I’ve had so many arguments about IMAX and tried to explain how it is a lot better than standard cinema, yet struggle to make others understand the huge differences.

The experience before an IMAX film starts, to see the promotional material they screen to show the immense size of the screen, is an amazing sight to behold. Watching the tiny countdown for a few moments in the centre of the screen only to have a huge sweeping blue line circle the entire screen is something that must be experienced. That single moment was enough to make me see that a film at IMAX was a worthwhile thing.

Allow me to present what I think are the problems facing IMAX (and Digital Cinema to a lesser degree) in Thailand.

DISCLAIMER: I am not associated with IMAX, Panasonic or Major Cineplex (who run IMAX in Thailand). I’m just crazy/nuts about cinema.

Is it because of the location of IMAX?
The remaining branch of IMAX is in the Major Cineplex complex at Ratchayothin, but Ratchayotin isn’t close to the centre of Bangkok, although it certainly isn’t far. Apparently there was once an IMAX at the Major Cineplex complex in Ekkamai which has now been closed because it wasn’t profitable. From what I’ve seen, it won’t be long before the one at Ratchayothin is closed as well.

Is it because of the films that are shown?
From previous experience, the films normally shown at IMAX tend to be short documentary types which serve no purpose other than to highlight how big the screen is. People don’t usually go to the cinema to watch documentaries. It’s good that they’ve begun to show more interesting (to me) films recently, such as Spiderman 2 and Robots. Hopefully this will prove if it is the choice of films.

Is it because of the ticket price?
Believe it or not, IMAX costs 180 Baht (just under $5 US). While this might not sound like much, when compared to the 120 Baht to see a normal film many Thai people (especially students) are unwilling or unable to pay the extra 60 Baht for what they see as the same film. This logic also applies to seeing a film in Digital. It costs a little more but many people can’t see or don’t appreciate the difference so are unwilling to pay the extra 20 or 30 Baht.

Is it because of poor marketing?
Most marketing I’ve seen promotes the IMAX DMR process, which is designed to take a normal film and rejig it for the IMAX screen with increased resolution (quite an amazing process, really). Unlike me, most people couldn’t care less about the technical details behind the DMR process and only care about the film itself. What is really needed is to show people the actual difference between the normal film and the film at IMAX. I have no idea how this could be done without an IMAX screen handy though… perhaps this is a marketing struggle.

What else could it be?
It could also be the fact that IMAX is part of a normal cinema complex. If IMAX is to succeed films need to be shown at the same time that they are released for normal cinema distribution. The problem with that is when given a choice, would you rather pay 120 Baht to see a film or 180 Baht? How to overcome this? One way would be to remove the choice. Force people to see it at IMAX because that is the only way they’ll be able to unless they want to travel to another complex (the nearest is at Lad Prao, even further from the centre of Bangkok).

I don’t want IMAX to die, I love you IMAX! Now if only you could be a bit easier to get to…

PS That last bit was to make it clear for anyone who hasn’t realised how I feel about IMAX.

2 Comments so far

  1. Oakyman (unregistered) on March 22nd, 2005 @ 9:59 am

    I lived near Ekkamai for many years, and went to Major Cineplex Ekkamai from the start.
    Couldn’t see any IMAX in Major Ekkamai.

    So, the first and the only IMAX in Thailand is at Ratchayothin.

  2. Ben Harris (unregistered) on March 22nd, 2005 @ 12:36 pm

    Thanks for correcting me. It’s hard to get good info :)

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