Greenwich IMAX Tested

Following on from yesterday, the reason why I was trying to cross that bridge on Friday night. To test out the new IMAX screen at Greenwich Odeon, something I’ve been looking forward to since I found out it was coming…

Right up until the last minute I thought I wasn’t going to be able to go. The website said that the entire screen was sold out. Well – it was the last Friday before Christmas, so it wasn’t really surprising.

So we tried telephoning – and after a LOT of “If you want this, press that” malarkey, actually spoke to a human, who told us there were tickets, but only in the more expensive premier seats. IMAX is already dearer than regular Odeon seats, which is understandable – you’re getting more for your cash – but there also seems to be a new classification. There’s ‘regular,’ and those gallery seats at the back which cost about twice as much but give you a squashy seat and a fizzy drink, but also ‘Premier’ which are numbered, so you don’t have to queue.

There was a group of us, so we decided to pay the extra and go anyway. We only started to get suspicious when we bowled up and the place was deserted. If there were 25 people in there, I’d be surprised. And nearly all of them were in those ‘premier’ seats…

I’m going to assume that the computer system was broken and that it is normally possible to book regular tickets. It just wouldn’t make economic sense to tell people you’re full when you’re not.

So. We’re inside. And looking forward to those ‘premier’ seats.

Folks, I’m warning you now. If you are shorter than about 6ft, you are in for an uncomfortable time. The seats, completely rigid (none of that lovely slidey variety) are set so high that if you’re anything less than – well – tall, your feet will dangle over the edge. I spent the entire film squirming around trying to get comfy. I am no midget, but I ended up almost horizontal with my coat rolled up under the hollow of my back.

I’m not going to talk about The Day The Earth Stood Still – the choice of movie of the week isn’t down to individual cinemas (though don’t get me started on the film distribution system in the UK…)

So. Back on to the IMAX experience itself. You know, I was under the impression that IMAX screens were enormous and had extraordinary clarity. And that an IMAX sound system is gigantic, plastered with speakers and intended to make you ‘feel’ the sound.

Well, I’ll give them that last one. The night we went, the sound was so damn loud it hurt. There was physical pain involved. I thought it might just be me, but my entire party agreed it was just too loud. One of our group, a rock drummer, is going deaf – and even he thought it was too loud. There are many, many speakers, but I’m guessing they haven’t worked out how to use them properly yet. There just weren’t enough bodies to soak up the sound and they hadn’t made allowances for that.

I’ve always been impressed with the London IMAX – and yes, it is noisy, but it’s never threatened to make my ears bleed. At Waterloo, they have balanced the sound so that it becomes part of you, not overwhelm your will to live.

Perhaps they’re making up for the screen. I don’t know how big Screen 9 was before. I think they have increased it to the size of the wall, but it’s certainly nowhere near as big as I’d expected. It felt like a normal screen – except the resolution didn’t seem as good – as though the projector was just putting an ordinary film onto a bigger screen.

Of course, once the action started, glitches in clarity aren’t noticeable, so I wasn’t so bothered by that as I was by the sound, which just didn’t get any better. I never acclimatised myself to the sheer volume. I certainly feel for the staff, who (and I’m absolutely serious about this) should be issued with earplugs for H&S purposes.

The one good by-product of the volume was that it was only in the quiet moments (and there aren’t many in The Day The Earth Stood Still) that I could hear the interminable chatter of the teenagers to my right.

I was really excited about getting a local IMAX, but with my hand on my heart, I can’t recommend the experience. I shall be continuing at the Picturehouse for all normal films, and, should I fancy a full-on IMAX hit, I’ll be hopping on the train to Waterloo, where they’ve calculated how to make it work.

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