Why you shouldn’t go to IMAX Gateway

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Years ago we had a massive IMAX theatre at Gateway in Durban. Unfortunately it was closed down. But SterKinekor came to the rescue this month and launched the IMAX experience once again for South Africa.

We went to Gateway this last Sunday, very excited to watch Thor on IMAX. Upon arriving at the original area where the IMAX used to be, we were redirected to cinema 18 amongst the rest of the normal cinemas. This was rather puzzling as we couldn’t figure out how there was enough space to fit it in.

Well, turns out that there isn’t enough space. SterKinekor’s new “IMAX” theatre is actually just a normal sized screen, in a normal sized theatre. All they have done is replace the traditional projector with an IMAX one – and curved the screen. Besides the tiny screen, there also seems to be some problem with the 3D, because it was blurred all around the edges. Then there were the terribly designed staircase LED’s that stop people from tripping. Instead of shining the LED’s downwards, they shine upwards right into your face. Ever looked directly into a bright blue LED? Yeah – you’re going to spend 2 hours doing that.

Being VERY disappointed with the size of the screen, I contacted the IMAX Corporation to ask how they had even certified this when it was just a rebranded standard theatre. They replied with:

Thank you for contacting IMAX Corporation. Each IMAX theatre is independently owned and operated. We have forwarded your message to our Theatre Marketing group. They will contact the Gateway IMAX location in Durban and have the theatre respond to you directly.

Maybe I am reading it wrong, but that just says to me that they have very little control over what get’s branded “IMAX”, and really don’t care as long as they are getting paid the license fees.

Over on the MyBroadband forums someone found an explanation of exactly this situation on Wikipedia:

“The digital installations have caused some controversy, as many theaters have branded their screens as IMAX after merely retrofitting standard auditoriums with IMAX digital projectors. The screen sizes in these auditoriums are much smaller than those in the purpose-built auditoriums of the original 15/70 IMAX format. These theaters charge the same premium pricing as the purpose-built IMAX theaters, resulting in consumer confusion.
Another disadvantage is the much lower resolution of digital IMAX compared to traditional IMAX film, which is estimated to be up to 12,000 × 8,700 pixels with at least 6,120 × 4,500 minimum discernible pixels (27 megapixels).[20] Some reviewers also note that many non-IMAX theaters are already projecting films at 4K resolution, while digital IMAX has deployed both 2K and 4K products.”


But what does it all mean?

Basically, SterKinekor is charging just under R100 for a ticket to go watch a movie on a standard-size cinema screen with blurry 3D. Yes, they are just capitalizing on the IMAX brand.

Seriously, save yourself the heartbreak, go watch Thor somewhere else.

Other people

While some people are fine with the small screen, below are a few posts from the MyBroadband forum:

pjjdp said:

We went there yesterday as well. What a waste of money. As said by Roguemat, the screen is small in comparison to the previous IMAX. I Also thought it was at the old place, but was directed to the normal complex.
The screen is slightly bigger than a normal cinema screen, that’s it. Sound was good, seats were comfy. We drove all the way from Waterfall. The wife is still moaning about the money spent.
If you want to watch something in 3D, just go to the Pav or something.

K.J said:

Thought whole point of IMAX was the massive screen…

Genetic said:

All original film IMAX cinema’s closed in South Africa 3 or so years ago – apparently due to poor management. Ster Kinekor has now brought IMAX back, but the crappy digital variant…


In my view, digital IMAX can’t be advertised like normal IMAX.
It’s like saying a 32″ HD Ready TV is as good as a 100″ Ultra HD TV.

Loc said:

I went and watched Thor at Imax, thankfully had a Edgars card so only paid R58. Still would rather have paid R15 at Musgrave, wasn’t anything special about it. Certainly won’t go back


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  • 3D Fan

    I disagree. It may not be ‘fully’ imax, but it was much much better than standard 3D.

    • RogueCode

      Is the blurryness a feature? After watching 3D movies on an HD TV (like a Samsung Series 8) cinema 3D actually feels very unimpressive.

      EDIT: Something that I also found was that my wife(who is usually fine with other 3D) got a headache from this. Now that isn’t really a negative of whatever 3D tech they are using, but rather it does at least show that it is different (so they at least didn’t just reuse the normal cinema projector :P).

  • DarthofZA

    Not only was the 3D perfect for me, but IMAX isn’t about the size of the screen. You watch IMAX for the resolution, the colour contrast and the sound, and they have done that right. They also charge 40% of IMAX’s normal fee, so you’re getting a really good deal.

    • RogueCode

      While the 3D is subjective, I would argue that the ENTIRE point in IMAX is the large screen (resolution comes along with that obviously). So when you shrink the screen to a quarter of the size any advantage you would have got with very high resolution becomes meaningless. Judging by comments on other forums, other people seem to agree that the size is really what makes IMAX, IMAX.

      • DarthofZA

        I guess that would depend on where your interests lie. All the people I know that work in the graphic industry that went loved it. The video editors I see are still raving about how incredible the quality of the screen was. The ciniphiles I know (including those at sites like themovies) also loved it. So I guess if you just want a big screen, and that is what IMAX is to you, then stay away. But if you want quality, then it delivers.

        • RogueCode

          It would be interesting to compare the quality side-by-side with one of their other cinemas. I didn’t notice anything remarkable, but obviously didn’t have much to compare it to.

          Regarding the sound, it seems that this cinema does not have Dolby ATMOS. So if you’re watching for sound quality – rather go to Cinema 1.

          • Tat Wolfen

            RogueCode, I put in a comment above that is probably more suited as a reply to you, so here it is, in essence: No IMAX in the world runs Dolby Atmos, Datasat, Barco or any other such sound system, as IMAX has its own systems in place, and movies are remixed, from the ground up, to these specs.

            I was at Gateway for Opening Night, and I don’t think that anyone could’ve quibbled with the sound – or with its ability to remain clear and undistorted even during the loudest passages (of which there were a good few in that obnoxious Thor movie!).

          • RogueCode

            Yeah, I looked it up previously and they run a different sound system altogether. My comment above was merely saying that if good audio is what you want then why not just go to the ATMOS cinema next-door for arguably better sound.

            No one is arguing that the sound isn’t good – I didn’t even mention it in the post (besides a quote saying it was good). Personally I was “wowed” by the ATMOS cinema sound and didn’t notice anything in the IMAX (not knowing that it actually wasn’t). However this is subjective, and I only brought it up based on the previous comment.

          • straighttalk

            1. ImAX is dead. ?.. here in SA anyway
            2. Your comment about Thor, is all one needs to see u an uptight prat.
            3. IMAX was about the big screen. AV quality was given. Now this experience takes that awesome epic large feel away. And again Mr Obnoxious, that was the whole point!

          • Tat Wolfen

            Shame, straighttalk, aren’t you capable of engaging in a discussion without having to be impolite?

            And does it really trouble you that someone doesn’t share your opinion about a superhero movie? Should we all put on our uniforms and love all the same movies?

            My comment directly above specifically addresses sound issues – which is an important component of any IMAX screening, as the IMAX people themselves will tell you.

            I’m quite aware of the issue of screen size. If you had been concentrating – instead of seething with juvenile anger – you would read an earlier comment of mine which included these words: “Yes, like you guys, I miss our older IMAX screens, and hope that the Jo’burg IMAX will boast a larger screen.”

            Would a diagram make things easier for you?

  • Ash

    I was really bumed out by the new IMAX. I was expecting the old IMAX. I actually went to the old IMAX to fetch my tickets and I was told that the IMAX is with the other cinemas. The screen was small which sucked…. This will be my last movie in IMAX. I might as well go to Musgrave or any other Cinema.

    I also didnt like the 3D glasses which we were forced to use. Incredible uncomfortable and it hurt me!

  • Tat Wolfen

    Atmos shouldn’t enter the debate, though BTW, RogueCode, only Gateway screen 1 has Atmos. The system is far too expensive at this stage to install in all auditauria. Gateway 1 is currently the only Atmos venue in the country.

    IMAX has its own sound system, and films for release in IMAX theatres are mixed to those specs. You will therefore never hear an Dolby or Datasat system in an IMAX theatre, anywhere in the world.

  • Tat Wolfen

    In response to Genetic’s comment, shown above, the previous entities that ran IMAX in SA a few years ago did the best they could under tough circumstances. I wouldn’t say that they closed because of “poor management”.

    They were running 70mm IMAX projectors, and the cost of IMAX film prints is exorbitant. Then there were the freight costs for those incredibly heavy films. Factor in licensing fees and the reality that the Rand is on an ongoing journey down the toilet, and you’ll understand that the odds were stacked against them.

    Digital IMAX was the only solution for SA, which, despite pretensions to the contrary, is a Third World country with uninspiring economic prospects. Digital IMAX screens are capable of reaching quite exciting sizes, b y the way – but there has to be the space to accommodate them, and cineplex retrofits are generally hemmed in by the space limitations of existing shops, etc, around them. Yes, like you guys, I miss our older IMAX screens, and hope that the Jo’burg IMAX will boast a larger screen.

    • RogueCode

      Personally I didn’t receive bad service at the old IMAX, however when search while doing this post I did also find an article agreeing with Genetics’ observation about bad management. Possibly just due to financial constraints and lack of staffing.

      Hopefully at some stage we can get a “real” IMAX again – possibly exclusively in a more profitable region like JHB.

  • matthew

    Just coming in to agree, just watched hobbit, and as I walked in I thought this was not what I remembered from the old Imax. I remember the camera being at a high point in the film and actually feeling like I was there. Now its just a little bit bigger than normal cinemas.
    Really disappointing.

  • A m p chetty

    A, m p chetty….whilst the seats in th ‘imax ‘ theatre were great, the screen size is the predominant feature, and the cinema was just rebranded at gateway as ‘imax’ so the poor public could be fleeced. I most certainky will NOT pay the higher prices as this is clearly a ripoff

  • Richard

    DO NOT GO TO IMAX GATEWAY!!! It is not IMAX, the screen is not 4 times the size of a normal screen, its about 1.1 times bigger.

    They have just put an IMAX projector in. I must say it is very clear, but do not go there expecting a big screen.

    Damn indians just rebranding things as they want to lol

    • tj

      Wtf Indians got to do with branding imax u prick!

    • Hamza Mulla

      You do know that Ster Kinekor is owned by SANLAM which is an Afrikaans company (Die Suid-Afrikaanse Nasionale Lewens Assuransie Maatskappy).
      Dumbass. In this age ignorance is a sign of idiocy.