This article aims to compare two movie theater technologies, RPX vs IMAX. More importantly, it aims to answer your question of which to watch. Both technologies have their pros and cons. But the choice comes down to what you prefer and in which scenario.
If you’re like me, you like a good movie. And, honestly, movies are for watching on the big screen. Theaters were once (upon a time) small halls, with very few seats and no sound (can you imagine that?!). Today we’re offered huge halls, enormous movie screens, immersive sound, and several technologies to choose from.
Two experiences that have been gaining significant traction in the previous decade are RPX and IMAX. We decided to do a comparison to see what the differences are.
RPX vs IMAX: What’s the Difference?
Both RPX and IMAX are at the top end of the movie theater experience. Where IMAX differs is that it produced cameras and projectors first and foremost, while its “excursion” into the theater experience came later. This means IMAX offers the entire product lifecycle, from creation to enjoyment.
RPX is solely a prestige theater experience. RPX offers visitors luxury, with recliner-like leather seats and 7.1 sound systems for a more immersive experience. RPX screens are wider than those of IMAX theaters, but the overall quality of each is pretty much on the same level.
|Infrastructure and Screens||Smaller, flat screens with digital projectors. RPX screens are wider than those of IMAX.||Larger, curved screens with dual 2/4K laser projectors. IMAX screens are taller than any others.|
|Sound||7.1 surround sound systems with additional speakers built into each seat.||Custom 12 channel sound systems built for clarity and power.|
|Comfort||High-comfort leather seats, with higher backrests featuring headrests.||Better than standard theaters but generally not as good as RPX.|
|Cost||RPX admissions are higher than IMAX theaters.||IMAX admissions cost roughly $5 more than regular theaters.|
|Verdict||RPX theaters are suitable for watching any type of movie, including 3D movies, but they are expensive.||Don’t waste your money on IMAX if you’re watching a story-oriented movie with no action scenes.|
RPX stands for “Regal Premium Experience.” It’s just that – a premium experience theater within a theater. The Regal company was established more than 30 years ago. Since then, it has grown, filed for bankruptcy, and acquired a lot of its competition.
The premium experience varies slightly depending on your location. Some RPX theaters have actual recliner seats and additional speakers within the seats. Other RPX theaters offer less of a personalized touch but are top-notch nonetheless.
- Premium experience
- Less eye-straining screens
- Recliner seats
- Narrow aisles
IMAX is an abbreviation of “Image Maximum.” The company started as an experiment, quickly learning that it may have shot too far with its multi-projector, multi-screen aim. It settled on single, large-screen images, and IMAX was born.
When IMAX entered theaters, it became known for its huge screens and its 3D and MX4D formats. Many contemporary movies are filmed using IMAX cameras and are marketed as being best viewed in IMAX theaters.
- Larger curved screens
- 12 channel custom sound systems
- Too loud
RPX vs IMAX: Features Face to Face
RPX screens are wider while IMAX screens are higher. This is due to the IMAX larger film format and size. This means you’ll enjoy a larger shot in IMAX-filmed movies. IMAX screens are generally 52 by 70 feet, but they have begun approving smaller screen sizes in a bid to stay competitive.
RPX Screens are generally 40 by 60 feet, but this also varies depending on your location. Some IMAX theaters are designed to make the seats closer to the screens, making them seem even larger to viewers.
I have to say that video quality is the No.1 feature for me when it comes to movie theaters. The absolute best viewing experience is watching an IMAX-filmed movie in an IMAX theater. But for any other format, RPX theaters are just as good. I’ve found IMAX theaters are a waste of money when watching story-oriented movies with little to no action.
IMAX’s strength in this department comes from the product lifecycle I mentioned above. IMAX produces the cameras and film that a lot of moviemakers use today. Movies filmed in the IMAX format are breathtaking when you see them in an IMAX theater.
Both RPX and IMAX theaters are great for watching 3D movies, but I tend to lean toward IMAX for any action-packed movies. IMAX 3D provides unsurpassed brightness and clarity in 3D images. For everything else, RPX is a great choice as well.
Both RPX and IMAX screens are made by the same company. The difference is that IMAX screens tend to be larger, and the audience tends to be seated close to the screen. Also, IMAX screens tend to be curved in the center, adding to the effects of 3D movies.
IMAX produces its own projectors and uses dual 2K and 4K laser projectors in its theaters. RPX cinemas use cutting-edge digital projectors as well. RPX screens are straight and smaller than their IMAX counterparts but are reputed to be easier on the eyes than those of IMAX (due to brightness).
IMAX uses custom-built 12.0 channel sound systems that can go an octave lower in the sub-base response (stated by IMAX). IMAX places speakers behind their screens for maximum effect.
RPX uses wall-mounted 7.1 surround systems with a low-frequency transducer in each seat. You can find both Dolby Atmos sound systems and Auro 3D sound systems in RPX theaters, depending on your location.
While I’m a fan of high-quality sound, I think IMAX theaters are too loud. On the other hand, I’m also not a fan of speakers in my chair (which is the case in certain RPX theaters). Both cases overwhelm me after a long movie. So, as it often is with sound, this is totally down to your personal preference as a viewer (or listener in this case).
Seating and comfort
Have you ever sat in leather seats throughout a 3-hour movie? Sitting on leather for so long will inevitably create squeaking sounds whenever you shift your weight. You and the other 150 – 300 people in the theater. While I like a premium experience, and RPX is just that, I’m not a fan of leather.
The other issue is the typically narrow aisles in RPX theaters. They prove to be a hassle in most theaters I’ve been in.
On the other hand, IMAX leaves a lot of legroom and usually has wider aisles (depending on your location, of course). IMAX also states that they design each theater so that every seat is perfectly positioned. This guarantees that every viewer is facing the screen perfectly in an IMAX theater.
Personal experience (and much of the facts) tells me that RPX vs IMAX boils down to preference. Both are top-grade, offering a far better cinema experience than standard theaters. Is RPX worth the extra admission price when IMAX already costs more than regular theaters? We’ll find out below when we compare prices.
If you have a fully loaded RPX theater in your area with recliner seats and their largest screens, RPX is worth the cost. RPX admissions are generally $5 more than IMAX admission prices. RealD 3D ticket prices are even higher in RPX theaters, and 4DX goes to about $30 for adults.
IMAX is already roughly from $2 to $5 above the price of standard theater tickets, so bear that in mind when choosing. The upcharge for IMAX 3D is a couple of dollars over the initial ticket price. MX4D ticket prices also have a slight upcharge.
All in all, RPX theaters are more expensive than IMAX. It boils down to what you’re willing to pay for a movie. Whatever your choice, you’re getting your money’s worth when compared to standard theaters.
RPX vs IMAX: Standout Features
RPX offers its visitors a great RealD 3D experience along with its regular 2D format. When you take RPX prices into account, I don’t see why you wouldn’t go with IMAX and enjoy a great experience. The leather recliner seats could persuade you to pay the extra cash in RPX theaters if that’s your thing.
IMAX offers its visitors both 3D and MX4D along with its regular 2D format. When you figure in the 25% more of the picture that IMAX film offers, you can’t go wrong when choosing IMAX for these formats. Their curved screen also allows you to see much more than you would during a normal movie showing on a regular screen.
Enjoy watching 3D movies at home? Check out this article we wrote: What you need to watch 3D movies at home.
When it comes to RPX vs IMAX, it’s truly an issue of preference. You might like the RPX format and not mind forking out the extra cash. It does feel great to lay back in their seats and enjoy the RPX experience.
If you’re like me, you like IMAX’s large screens and custom sound experience. I choose IMAX for all action-packed movies and go with RPX when I’m off to see a drama or a comedy. Whichever you choose, you can’t go wrong with either of them. But, if you ask me, I’ll always choose IMAX.