Ster-kinekor’s theatre in Eastgate Shopping Centre recently became the sixth IMAX facility in the country.
A few things make this particular cinema special: it has the biggest IMAX screen in the country at 22 metres, the complex surrounding it is the first in the world made specificity as an IMAX theatre, and it played host to the South African premier of Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens.
So; what’s it like and is it worth the extra money on top of the already expensive movie tickets?
The first thing you need to know about this screen in particular is that the immense size of it makes the entire first half of the theatre’s seats practically useless. If you’re unlucky enough to be sat in one of these for a movie, you’ll be swivelling your head so much you’ll be leaving the movie with a very sore neck.
We luckily figured this out in a small conference held by Wanda Matandela, CEO of Ster-Kinekor and Giovanni Dolci, vice president of theatre development at IMAX Corporation EMEA which preceded the showing of Star Wars.
They filled us in on a few facts about the facility as well as Dolci pointing out that South Africa is a key part of IMAX’s expansions in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
“South Africa is a focus market for IMAX,” Said Dolci, “We’ve seen a lot of success already, as well as room to grow.”
This will hopefully mean we get to see more fancy theatres like the recently built ones in Eastgate:
After the conference we had to leave the theatre, only to be funnelled in again following a security search. If you’ve had any doubts about how serious Disney is about protecting this movie, the police were on hand to make sure no one brought in recording devices. We’re pretty sure the SAPS could have been put to better use stopping violent crime and the like.
Regardless, we fought to get a seat as far back as possible. As we said earlier, we suggest booking tickets for this theatre online so you can make sure you get a seat that isn’t in the front.
The picture itself on this massive screen is surprisingly crisp and, because of the size, truly immersive.
The biggest problems you’ll find is with the IMAX 3D glasses. If you’re not looking at the screen at a perfect angle, the 3D effects will go out of sync. This problem is much worse when compared to regular 3D in non-IMAX theatres. While this (mostly) wasn’t a problem, if you got stuck in a closer seat you’ll be moving your head more, making the issue more prominent.
Again, sit as far back as possible.
The only other complaint was motion blur in several scenes. For some very strange reason, the blur was not present in any of the fast-paced action scenes, but was present and noticeable in slower ones.
While the picture did leave something to be desired, the sound did not. We’re not exaggerating for effect when we say that this theatre may have the best audio setup we’ve ever come across.
Never before has sound come through such volume and clarity. There’s been a problem with theatres really turning up the bass in previous years. While this does increase that “chest-punch” feeling, it comes at the loss of actually hearing what people are saying.
Last we checked, an IMAX ticket for Star Wars was R110, which out-prices both the 2D and regular 3D versions of the movies. You’ll also have to fork out for the special glasses.
Is it worth it? We’re going to say yes for the sound alone.These phenomenal acoustics may be specific to the Eastgate branch thanks to the custom-made theatre, so if you have trouble keeping up with dialogue it may be worth the money to drive out there.
For everyone else: the IMAX experience is something we do suggest trying out, and Star Wars is a pretty great place to start. This version of it isn’t perfect, but the problems mentioned above aren’t deal-breakers.