As cinemas around the world race to see who will bring more butts in seats, the experience they provide to movie-goers has become their main focus.
In this article, we’ll compare two cinema technologies — ScreenX vs IMAX — to give you an idea of which one will provide a better theater experience.
ScreenX vs iMAX
If you’re looking to compare ScreenX vs IMAX and see where you’ll get a better experience, IMAX is an innovation and improvement on the traditional movie-watching experience, while ScreenX is a complete reimagining of the experience. ScreenX offers you a 270 degrees field of view, whereas IMAX provides you with a 70-degree field of view, but ScreenX isn’t exactly seamless.
While IMAX is a very popular movie theater format, and you can find venues all over the world, ScreenX is a little harder to find, especially in the West, as it’s more popular in Asia.
Comparing these two will be a little challenging because they’re so different and provide a vastly different experience altogether, but here’s a handy table for a quick overview:
|Image Quality||Standard or digital format||35 trillion colors, crystal clear image|
|Image Format||Regular widescreen aspect ratio (1:8:1)||1:9:1 aspect ratio|
|Number of projectors||5||2|
|Sound System||Uses the proprietary cinema sound system||A 12-channel sound system|
|Availability||364 venues in 37 countries||1500 venues in 80 countries|
|Field of View||270 degrees||70 degrees|
|Production||Has to use either three cameras or CGI in post-production||Films with special 70mm cameras|
|Theater Experience||Good overall||Good overall|
|Comfort and Seating||Comfortable seats, although the view is not the best if you’re too close to the side||Padded and adjustable at-height seats, front seats are too close to the screen|
|Cost||Around $30||Around $20|
What is screenX?
ScreenX was introduced in 2012 by CJ 4DPLEX, a subsidiary of CJ CGV group.
The main “selling point” of ScreenX and the numero uno reason to visit a venue that has it is the field of view that it gives you — a grand 270-degree viewing angle!
This is achieved by using three separate screens, where the main movie is displayed on the center screen, while the two side screens show the surroundings, creating an immersive ambiance.
The tech that ScreenX uses for this is more or less standard; it’s just that this makes pre and post-production a lot more involved as they basically have to shoot with three cameras and then combine them into one movie.
Other than the 270-degree viewing angle, ScreenX uses standard cinema technology when it comes to projectors (although it has to use 5 to display a film this way) and sound systems.
What is iMAX?
We’ve had multiple opportunities to talk about IMAX and compare it with other technologies (see this Cinemark XD vs IMAX comparison, for example).
Originally founded as “Multiscreen Corporation Limited” in 1967, the first IMAX film was shown at the Osaka, Japan EXPO in 1970, and the first permanent IMAX theater projection was installed at Ontario Place’s Cinesphere in Toronto, Canada, a year later.
“IMAX” stands for “Image Maximum” and is best known for big, 70+ feet wide screens that provide an amazing viewing experience.
Typically, IMAX uses dual 4K or 8K laser projectors with a half-pixel offset, so the image is crystal clear and with accurate colors, and it can display both 2D and 3D movies.
Finally, when it comes to availability, it shouldn’t prove too much of a problem to find an IMAX theater near you as there are 1500 IMAX theaters in 80 countries around the globe.
IMAX gives viewers a 70-degree viewing angle and typically uses two 4K projectors.
Pros and Cons
Of course, neither of the two is perfect, so let’s look at the pros and cons of ScreenX vs IMAX next.
- The 270-degree viewing angle gives a truly unique experience
- The three screens combo can be a little distracting, especially when the two side screens are not “on” all the time
- Pre and post-production takes longer on ScreenX
- Not as available in the West as it is in the East (Cinemark has several open and planned in Texas)
- Largest (individual) screens available in theaters — 70 feet wide and above
- Readily available throughout the world with 1500 theaters in 80 countries
- Not every IMAX is the “real one.” There are plenty of so-called “LIE-IMAX” theaters with smaller screens, so you don’t get the big screen experience
IMAX and screenX Features Face Off
Now let’s take a look at the features offered by ScreenX and IMAX face-to-face and see which one is better where.
Although ScreenX has a solid image quality, it’s nothing to write poems about. Yes, it’s good, but nothing special.
On the other hand, IMAX offers crystal clear images with zero blurriness and is highly color-accurate with 35 trillion colors.
ScreenX uses a standard widescreen ratio, which is 1:8:1 or 16:9. However, as the three screens provide a different image each, there’s much more immersion.
That said, IMAX uses an aspect ratio of 1:9:1, which on a large scale makes a lot of difference compared to standard 40-50 feet screens.
ScreenX is all about the viewing experience, so the sound takes a backseat here, and it’s your proprietary cinema sound system, meaning 7.1 surround sound.
It should be noted, however, that, in 2019, CJ 4DPLEX (the company behind ScreenX) and DTS signed a partnership to bring DTS:X object-based audio format to ScreenX theaters.
IMAX is not just about large screens, and its sound system proves that.
It uses a 12-channel system, with each channel consisting of JBL speakers models 2245 H (woofer), 2445 J (driver), 2123 H (midrange) and 2404 H (tweeter). Of course, if you look at our Dolby Cinema vs IMAX review, that’s still not as good as Dolby’s 64 channels.
However, for some, the IMAX sound system can be too loud, and the bass is especially distracting.
ScreenX has fewer venues and is available in “only” 364 locations in 37 countries, with the majority of screens in East Asia, especially South Korea and China.
You can find IMAX venues almost anywhere in the world. There are around 1500 IMAX theaters in 80 countries around the globe.
Field of View
With three screens providing a 270-degree field of view, ScreenX blows away any competition, no doubt. That’s far more than the average human FoV of 180 degrees.
*We use the term “three screens” loosely as the theater where we tested ScreenX was located in West Plano, Texas, at Cinemark’s flagship location, and the theater’s side walls ARE the two other screens. It’s unclear if all ScreenX setups are that way.
IMAX’s field of view is still quite good at 70 degrees, making the experience of watching a movie on one of its screens great, but it just can’t compare with ScreenX on this.
Both ScreenX and IMAX take a big step away from regular movie production.
ScreenX, for instance, either needs to shoot with three different cameras, where each camera captures one screen. Of course, the main story is on the center screen, but the two side screens capture the surroundings.
Alternatively, the producer can focus on the main screen and then add CGI in post-production for the side screens.
On the other hand, IMAX uses a 70mm film format, whereas others use the 35mm one, which is why it’s able to get such good image detail.
Both ScreenX and IMAX offer a great theater experience.
Our impression is that ScreenX’s 270-degree screen can be a little hit-or-miss sometimes and that it is a lot better when it comes to that first impression.
Once you sit in front of the three screens, you’ll get that “wow” almost right away. It will make you feel like you’re in the movie. The problem is that the two side screens may not always be on, so that takes away the immersion a bit.
IMAX’s huge screens also hit your “This is so cool!” receptors hard, especially if you’re used to seeing movies on regular big screens, but that’s not all.
The image quality is also superb, and if you’re into strong bass, you’ll be able to not only “hear” but also “feel” the sound, like you’re a part of the movie itself.
Comfort and Seating
ScreenX seats are good quality and comfortable. They’re also arranged in rows, one in front of the other and the screen is placed at a height.
However, if you’re not in the center or about there and are more to the left or right you won’t get a very good view.
IMAX also has good seats. They’re padded and adjustable at height.
The main issue is that the front seats seem to be a little too close to a screen that big.
Both are more expensive than the regular cinema.
ScreenX is the more expensive of the two at around $30, which is twice what you would pay in a regular movie theater.
IMAX will cost you around $20, so about 50% more than usual.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does ScreenX mean in movies?
ScreenX is a movie theater technology that uses multiple (usually 5) projectors that extend the image to 270 degrees and provide a more panoramic view.
Is there anything better than IMAX?
While IMAX offers the biggest screens, movie experiences aren’t all about that. Dolby Cinema, for instance, has the better sound, while Cinemark and RPX have better seating.
Is it worth seeing a movie in IMAX?
If there’s an IMAX near you, it’s definitely worth seeing it.
Do you wear glasses for IMAX?
Not all IMAX movies require 3D glasses; only those noted as 3D IMAX.
So, what is the final verdict in this ScreenX vs IMAX comparison?
Which technology will give you a better movie-going experience?
There’s no clear-cut answer here, as both ScreenX and IMAX offer a very different experience for movie-goers.
On one hand, you have the large IMAX screen with great colors and crystal clear image quality, but on the other, ScreenX gives you a 270-degree FoV and better immersion when watching.
However, not all three screens will be on all the time during the movie, and the two side screens may go on and off depending on the scene so that itself takes away some of the immersion. Plus, it takes a little time to get used to it and not constantly look all over the place and just focus on the central screen.
That said, it’s all about individual preferences, and if you have ScreenX and IMAX nearby, we’d recommend checking both of them out.
What do you think? Have you been to a ScreenX or IMAX movie projection? Which one did you like more?