The IMAX Corporation and Sony Pictures announced today that they’ll continue the trend of trying to rob people using false advertising by releasing Resident Evil: Afterlife in digital IMAX theaters. “Digital IMAX theaters” are better known by their more descriptively correct name: Liemax.

Digital IMAX theaters are not IMAX theaters. They’re regular theaters with an IMAX sticker slapped on the door. This watering down of the IMAX brand first came to light early last year when people began showing up to IMAX screenings and discovered that they were anything but. Since then, it’s gotten even worse.

In early 2009 digital IMAX theaters were at least somewhat larger than normal theaters. They weren’t IMAX, but at least they were better than the normal movie screen. Since then, they’ve abandoned even that practice and just started slapping the IMAX name on any theater willing to receive one of their stickers. For example, when our own Katey Rich went to see Iron Man 2 in IMAX, she showed up at the theater to discover that Iron Man 2: IMAX was showing on exactly the same screen she saw Iron Man on, except two years ago when she saw Iron Man, it wasn’t an IMAX theater. What’s changed? Higher ticket prices and a sticker.

My Iron Man 2 IMAX was similar, but illustrates why this practice of fleecing consumers seems to be working. I showed up for my Iron Man 2: IMAX screening, walked through a door with the “IMAX” sticker on it, only to discover I was in a normal Regal movie theater. When I remarked to the person next to me that this must be one of those fake IMAX screenings, the woman in front of us turned around and became angry, not at the theater which was ripping her off, but at me for spreading what she wanted to believe was false information. People aren’t actually interested in seeing IMAX, they seem to be pretty satisfied with the illusion of seeing movies in IMAX.

In theory these Liemax theaters are using special IMAX digital projectors. Maybe they are. Unfortunately these IMAX projectors are inferior pieces of equipment. The picture quality is vastly inferior, for instance, to the picture quality of top of the line Christie digital projectors used in premium theaters like the one here in my neighborhood at a fantastic movie palace called Cinetopia. They’re also inferior to real IMAX projectors which, as the name suggests, actually project movies in the IMAX format.

But if you’ve ever seen a movie in a real IMAX theater then you know it’s so much more than just what projector is being used too. It’s also more than just a bigger screen (which real IMAX has) or legroom (which in a real IMAX theater is unmatched). For me the real selling point is sound. Real IMAX theaters incorporate a complex, perfectly balanced and tuned sound system which is unlike any other audio experience you’ll ever get in any other theater in the world. Real IMAX, even in an age of crystal clear digital projection, is the best way to see any movie and it’s worth the extra money they charge for it. Liemax is just a way to steal people’s money without bothering to go through the trouble and expense necessary to construct a real IMAX experience.

Resident Evil: Afterlife will now continue the trend of stealing money from potential IMAX audiences while ruining the brand name. Shame on you Sony and shame on you Resident Evil, for willfully screwing your audience over in the name of making a couple extra bucks. Unfortunately, they’ll get away with it, the way Hollywood has gotten away with everything else. As it’s been with bad 3D and every other insult Hollywood has dished out to audiences in recent years, as long as it seems special, moviegoers want it. It’s not about whether or not the presentation’s actually any good, what matters is that the poster says it is. Take a dump in a box and mark it guaranteed, and it doesn’t matter what’s inside it, we’ll buy it.

I guess you like being ripped off. If you don’t want to be ripped off, the next time you end up in a Liemax theater, do us all a favor and demand your money back.

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