What is AMC Digital? Let us clear the confusion once & for all!

Going to a movie theater is not just about watching a movie. If it were, then it would certainly be much cheaper and easier to watch it at home through a streaming service like Netflix or Hulu.

It’s much more about the experience and the ability to watch a movie on a big screen that covers your entire field of vision and lets you immerse yourself in it for the next 2-3 hours.

Today, there are many types of cinemas, like IMAX, Dolby Cinemas and so on, with each offering something unique, whether it’s huge screens, a better surround sound system, or more comfortable seats than others. 

One cinema that is creating a bit of confusion with moviegoers is AMC Digital, from AMC Theatres. In this article, we will explain just what AMC Digital is, what are its main features and how it is different from other theaters, namely IMAX.

So, grab a large bag of popcorn and let’s explore what AMC Digital means.

AMC Digital Meaning

AMC Digital is simply an AMC cinema with a standard screen (45 to 65 feet) and without the extra features that AMC’s Premium theaters like IMAX have. And digital cinema simply means that the movie is on a computer hard drive instead of 35mm film. The quality is still high-definition.

What does Digital mean at AMC?

Back in the day, movies were made on film reels. These were either 35mm or 70mm reels.

Unfortunately, there were numerous problems with this type of technology:

  • The reel itself is bulky and heavy, so it’s difficult to store and transport
  • It’s susceptible to wear and tear the more it is used (basically, the more you play a movie from the same reel, the more it wears down)
  • It can also be damaged by the elements like water, fire, dust, etc. 

Then, in the mid-to-late 1990s, digital cinematography slowly but steadily began to push film stock to the side until becoming the dominant technology by the mid-2010s.

There were actually several reasons for this, but the most important ones are that:

  • Digital format is much easier to reproduce than analog film reels
  • It is stored on a hard drive or similar medium and doesn’t take up physical space in a storage room
  • Since the digital format is not physical, there is also no danger of physical damage or wear and tear like with the film reel

Knowing all this, surely something called “AMC Digital” must be a superior thing. Right?

Well, unfortunately, it’s not all that special. 

You see, “AMC Digital” simply refers to a standard screen at AMC cinemas that lacks the extra bells and whistles of IMAX, Dolby Cinema, BiGD, PRIME, or RealD 3D.

In fact, putting “digital” in “AMC Digital” is entirely obsolete as these days, most movies are digital.

AMC Digital vs AMC’s Premium Screens

Okay, so let’s clarify the situation further by comparing AMC Digital with other AMC screens.

IMAX at AMC

IMAX at AMC
IMAX at AMC

The main difference between AMC Digital and IMAX at AMC is in the screen size. 

While AMC Digital has a standard screen size of about 45 to 65 feet, IMAX screens are typically much larger ranging from 60 to 100+ feet in width.

Of course, this is only if we’re talking about “Real IMAX” rather than “LIE-IMAX” screens.

In addition, IMAX uses 70mm films besides digital format, whereas AMC Digital only plays digital format films.

If you want to compare IMAX with other cinemas, check out our Cinemark XD vs IMAX article.

Dolby Cinema at AMC

Another cinema screen technology is Dolby Cinema

It uses dual 4K laser projectors, capable of a 500 times higher contrast ratio than regular cinema screens, but it only plays 2D movies and not 3D.

In addition, AMC Dolby Cinemas use Dolby’s proprietary Dolby Atmos surround sound technology via five in-screen speakers, 48 surround speakers and four subwoofers.

To learn more about Dolby Cinema, read our Dolby Cinema vs IMAX comparison.

AMC Prime

Today, most AMC Prime theater locations were converted to Dolby Cinema following AMCs partnership with Dolby Systems in the 2010s.

Now there are just a few AMC Prime theaters that are still open and working in the United States, so it’s difficult to find one.

Prime at AMC features digital projectors, a good sound system and reclining seats.

BigD

When AMC purchased Carmike theaters in 2016, it inherited BigD theaters with it. This actually added a third premium cinema offering.

Today, BigD theaters are available at AMC Classic theaters (formerly known as Carmike theaters), and there are a total of 28 such theaters today. 

These theaters feature massive screens that stretch from wall to wall and from floor to ceiling, projectors capable of showing movies in clear HD format, a powerful audio system that is “supported by quad-amplified speakers and subwoofers,” as well as “deluxe” seating (but no recliners, unfortunately).

Dreamscape

In 2017, AMC Entertainment and Dreamscape Immersive announced a partnership (Dreamscape at AMC) that will bring Virtual Reality (VR) to movie theaters.

Speaking about this, CEO and President at AMC Entertainment, Adam Aron, said:

“Dreamscape Immersive ushers in an exciting new world in virtual reality and reminds us through its trailblazing all-enveloping technology that we really are living in the 21st century. A dazzling future is now at hand. What makes Dreamscape Immersive and AMC Theaters a perfect fit together is the vast and impressive experience of Dreamscape’s founders in cinematic storytelling that is sure to resonate with AMC’s moviegoers.”

Adam Aron, CEO and President at AMC Entertainment

Dreamscape at AMC is available in movie theaters in Los Angeles, California; Dallas, Texas; Columbus, Ohio; Paramus, New Jersey; Geneva, Switzerland and Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

RealD 3D

RealD 3D is the most widely used digital stereoscopic technology in movie theaters today. As of June 2015, it has been installed in 26,500 auditoriums in 72 different countries. 

AMC’s RealD 3D features top-of-the-line screens capable of playing both 2D and 3D movies with high-stereo contrast.

To watch a RealD 3D movie, you need special eyewear which is UV-sanitized. The projector shows both left and right eye images, and the RealD system filters the light each way alternately in each frame at 144 FPS, allowing the viewer’s brain to see both images simultaneously.

Finally, using the process called “polarization,” each eye can see the image that it’s supposed to, which creates a 3D image.

AMC Theater Premium Offerings

AMC Signature Recliner
AMC Signature Recliner

AMC Premium cinemas include the following:

  1. IMAX
  2. Dolby Cinema
  3. AMC Prime
  4. RealD 3D
  5. BigD

Reserved Seating

At each of these, you can order a ticket via a touch-screen kiosk and log in with your AMC Stubs to collect points.

Recliner Seating

Once in the theater, you can enjoy luxury leather seats with seat warmers. All seats fully recline so you can sit (or lie back) and let the movie take you away.

Other Features

In addition, AMC Premium cinemas also feature other theater innovations such as eco-friendly restrooms, bars fully stocked with wine, beer and cocktails, and more than 100 Coca-Cola styles and flavors to pair with your movie.

Conclusion

Some movie directors (or film directors, if you will) are not terribly fond of digital technology. The famous director Quentin Tarantino even called it “the death of cinema.”

Be that as it may, digital cinemas are here, and they’ve taken over old-school film reels and analog cinema technology, for better or worse.

So! Is AMC Digital special?

Not really. In fact, the name is a bit misleading in that today most cinemas are, in fact, digital. So why name it AMC Digital and not, for instance, AMC Original? 

Beats us, but if you are looking for a movie in digital format, rather than in 35mm or 70mm, this is where you can go. 

That said, you’ll probably enjoy the screen at IMAX or the sound at Dolby Cinema better, but it’s your choice.

About Jon

Hey, I'm Jon. I'm an engineer by trade, so it makes sense that I'm obsessed with anything technology related! On the weekends, you can find me playing around with my computers or fixing something around the house. Feel free to leave a comment if you want to get in touch.

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