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 Grand IMAX - Ibn Battuta Mall

Dubai has a new cinema experience awaiting the casual movie watcher - that of the IMAX. Opening this week at the newly launched Grand Megaplex, the IMAX screen is the first of its kind in the Middle East, measuring 44 feet in height and 70 feet in width. By those accounts, the screen promises a truly powerful and involving experience, and it really is, at least initially. I was at the Grand Megaplex last weekend and had the pleasure of watching the major release of this week, Batman Begins, as well as the 3D picture T-Rex: Back to the Cretaceous.

The first thing that obviously hits you on entering the theatre is how big the screen is. About roughly twice the size of the largest conventional movie theatre screen, IMAX dwarfs the viewer into submission. Given how much of the direction in which the person is looking at is actually the screen itself and not the surrounding walls, it's hard to even miss an inch of the action, which is a great positive aspect. The sound quality is thus also amplified. Using the special IMAX projector, specifically made for this purpose, it is one of the most advanced and powerful film projection systems in the world. It seems obvious that the only way to get the highest quality of clarity and viewer sensation would require a screen size that engrosses and watching a film on IMAX does just that.

IMAX 3D is a similar yet more uniquely diverse experience. While normal movie viewing on IMAX may quickly become indistinguishable from that of viewing the same movie on a normal screen (given the regularity of the viewer that it), 3D on IMAX offers a world of a difference. Personally, the little 3D cinema I've seen has been unpleasant and unmemorable. Watching T-Rex was a good way to erase that memory. Because IMAX screens are so all encompassing, the 3D effect of the image being within reach is more realistic. However the best aspects of 3D IMAX, apart from the fact that the large screen helps achieve a viewer perception of the images as close to realistic as is possible, is the use of better picture quality and the IMAX 3D glasses, a great improvement over the uncomfortable, and sometimes painfully bland plastic colored shades. T Rex, a short movie with a running time of about 45 minutes, not much of a story and little performance extracted from the actors, is made with one and only one aspect in mind – to show off the 3D effect, and it is as rich as it is effective. Falling rocks, roaring dinosaurs and things thrown at the screen literally made me feel as if being in the same dimensional plane as what I was seeing, and not in a movie theatre, and yes some of it does make you duck for cover. A big financial hit when it was released in the late 90's, it is still considered one of the best ways to try out IMAX 3D.

Given how large the IMAX screen at Grand Megaplex is, the cinema itself felt cramped and slightly discomforting at first, but this was quickly drowned by many of the above-mentioned positive aspects. The big question however is, will viewers in Dubai find IMAX to be a true relish able craving or a novelty that quickly wears out. Time, and the prudence of the release schedules will most likely decide. - Faizan Rashid (29th June 2005)

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