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All movie theater premium screen options

Here is the list of every screen format offered in the U.S. (top 5 theaters in America only)​

  • AMC- Standard, IMAX, PRIME, Dolby Cinema at AMC, BIG D, REAL D 3D (offers international movies with English subtitles and American movies with Spanish dub with English sub).

  • Movie Tavern/Marcus Theaters- Standard, SuperScreen DLX, UltraScreen DLX

  • SMG- Standard only

  • Regal- Standard, RPX, ScreenX, VIP, 4DX, IMAX (offers international movies with English subtitles)

  • Rare formats- 70mm IMAX, 70mm, 35mm, 8mm

AMC Standard

I know this isn’t considered a “premium” screen type, however it is the most commonly used one in America so I will review it. Standard, for all theaters not just AMC, means there aren’t any special additions to the film experience. The screen is a normal movie screen size, with the projector and quality of the image being extremely basic. The sound in these theaters are usually standard without much surround sound, bass, depth, and definitely a lack of immersion. For AMC, their standard movies are probably the best standard format out of the bunch. Their screens and projectors are decent quality, and their sound has more bass than other standard places (especially SMG). Like all standard films, you get AMC’s standard recliners, which are pretty comfortable. If you are planning on going the standard route for any movie, AMC is probably your best bet for comfort and sound quality too. However, I do advise that against watching any movie that was made for a special format (we will get to those in a second) in standard since it will most likely take away from the experience.

IMAX at AMC

One of AMC’s premium screen formats is IMAX. IMAX is a company that has made the largest commercial movie screen with a whopping 59 by 69 foot screen. Controversy has circled IMAX theaters over the past decade due to the switch to dual laser projectors for a better image quality on IMAX screens. Because of this, not every IMAX theater, including AMC IMAX theaters, have these new dual lasers. To make matters worse, these IMAX theaters without the upgraded 4K dual laser also don’t have the correct screen size, with some reports saying the screen is 10 feet less than what it should be, coining the term Lie-MAX for these theaters. Luckily, there are websites that show if your IMAX theater is a real one or a Lie-MAX one. Moving on to sound quality, AMC uses IMAX’s sound DMR system, which is basically an advanced surround sound system meant to captivate the audience and it has to be calibrated after each use to ensure the best sound. I personally have not been to an IMAX theater at AMC, however I know the picture is the same as other theaters, and I will say it is definitely one of my favorite screen formats ever. The crisp quality of the screen plus IMAX’s pretty good DMR sound system make for an immersive experience due to the size of the screen. I do highly recommend making sure you're local AMC IMAX is true IMAX since majority of them in America are not. However I only recommend watching movies that were made and shot with IMAX cameras in this format, otherwise you will be watching a movie with black bars on the top and bottom which is very noticeable on the big screen.

PRIME at AMC

Here is where things get weird and a bit confusing. I will start off by saying that there aren’t that many AMC’s in America that offer PRIME, so naturally I’ve not been to this one. PRIME is supposed to be a step up from the standard format, but not as good as Dolby Cinema also offered at AMC. PRIME features a larger screen than standard (but still less than Dolby and IMAX screens), an upgrade surround sound system (not nearly as good as Dolby Atmos), and a 2K dual laser (Dolby Cinema has a 4K double projector). The reason I’m comparing Dolby Cinema and PRIME is that they were made to be similar, but PRIME being the “tier below” Dolby Cinema. PRIME also offers fancier and poofier recliners meant to be more comfortable than standard ones but able to absorb bass from the speakers for a more immersive experience, similar to Dolby Cinema. I would say this is a good option if you have a theater offering this, especially if you do not like how loud a Dolby Cinema is and it is a couple dollars cheaper.

Dolby Cinema at AMC

I’m going to start off by saying this is my favorite film format of all time, and it is offered in most AMC’s across America. Dolby Cinema is a complete upgrade in comfort, screen quality and size, and of course sound. The seats are a special and more comfortable recliner with more control options. The screen, while not as big as an IMAX screen, is much taller and wider than any standard format screen. The sound features Dolby Atmos patented surround sound experience. With over 128 speakers placed in the theater, the sound is a true delight and an immersive experience. The subwoofers are cranked up high so each explosion, gunshot, and punch will be felt in your recliner. The screen uses a double projector system that projects in 4K HDR, which is the highest quality (besides 70mm) in cinema. I can honestly say any movie that is released in Dolby Cinema is worth watching for the immersive experience. The picture quality and screen size is great, but the sound quality and the fact that you can feel each impact is amazing, making this my favorite film format.

Big D

This one is a little weird, and there are less than 30 of this format left in America. When AMC bought a company called Carmike, they inherited their version of 3D called Big D. These screens feature a “wall to wall screen” (which is smaller than IMAX but a little bigger than Dolby Cinema in terms of width) and 3D effects. Carmike made this to compete with Real D and their new 3D experiences. I’ve never seen a movie in Big D, but I’ve been told that the seats are comfortable (but they do not recline), and the sound is on par with PRIME sound systems. You can only find these in AMC Classics theaters.

Real D 3D at AMC

If you have ever seen a 3D movie at AMC, it was probably from the brand REAL D 3D. REAL D is a software company that converts normal movies to 3D so that viewers can put on 3D glasses and watch the movie as if it was right in front of them in 3D space. The screen in these theaters matters more than you think, because one smudge or scratch on the screen itself can mess up the entire 3D experience. The sound is also just standard AMC sound systems, but your eyes are the main focus here. I will say 3D movies are great if they are converted well, and REAL D sometimes doesn’t do well converting certain movies, which can cause a headache of a movie to watch. Also I don’t recommend for those prone to headaches, as the 3D effects can definitely cause some headaches. Overall, not a huge fan, but when done well it can be entertaining.

Movie Tavern/Marcus Theaters Standard

I will start off by saying that Marcus Theaters bought Movie Tavern and rebranded their entire theater line, probably for the worse. I am never a fan of Movie Tavern, and the theater is always either over run with little kids (especially on 6 dollar movie tuesdays) or just filled with people who talk during movies (every single movie I’ve seen there had at least one person talking during the movie). Also, their screen and sound quality is terrible. Their standard comes equipped with their signature dreamlounger recliners, probably the only good thing to come out of Movie Tavern. These seats are really poofy and comfortable, and some of them (key word some) are heated. Unfortunately, the positives stop there for the standard movies here. The screen size itself is fine, but the projector quality always seems a little grainy and it is noticeable during brighter scenes. The sound is horrible, with the voices being extremely loud and the soundtracks always being uneven in terms of audio levels. In the end, I really only recommend coming here on a Tuesday for the cheaper tickets, but even then beware of the hordes of children that come those days.

SuperScreen DLX

This is probably the only format even worth considering at a Movie Tavern. SuperScreen DLX is basically Movie Tavern’s version of Dolby Cinema. It features a Dolby Atmos sound system, but it only has 30 speakers in total, making the surround sound very minimal if noticeable at all. On the plus side, the bass is decent (not as loud as Dolby cinema though) but not loud enough to where the seats get the true immersive experience. The screen itself is way longer than a normal theater screen, but it still uses the same crappy projector quality that the Standard movies get, so the picture quality is not great at all for the decent screen size. All seats in SuperScreen DLX movies are the dreamloungers with heated seats, so that is a plus for sure. Overall, I would recommend that if you want to watch any movie at a Movie Tavern, whether it’s a discounted Tuesday ticket (10 bucks instead of 18) or just a normal one, do it in this format. But just note that there are more AMC’s than Movie Taverns, so do what you want with that information!

UltraScreen DLX

There isn’t a Movie Tavern offering this premium format for more than 400 miles of my house, so I’ve never seen a movie in this format. From what I’ve heard, it’s basically their version of IMAX. The screen for this format is only a couple feet short of an IMAX screen, which is massive. The sound UltraScreen DLX depends on the location, since some people report they had just an “upgraded Movie Tavern sound system” while others reported that they had a full Dolby Atmos sound system for their movie. The reviews for this format claim that the projector is a different type than the regular ones (thankfully) so the picture quality won’t be like the standard or even SuperScreen DLX version, however the projector does not have a dual laser in it like most IMAX theaters do, so the quality is still not the greatest. I would recommend watching movies in this format only if IMAX isn’t near your location, but for most of you that’s probably not the case.

Studio Movie Grill

This is really only being mentioned because it is one of the most used theater chains in America, which I don’t understand. For starters, SMG only has one viewing format, and that’s just their standard movie. They don’t offer IMAX, Dolby Cinema, or even a Dolby Atmos theater, which sucks. When I first realized this, I thought that SMG’s normal movie experiences must have been pretty good and high end for it to only offer standard viewings, and I was wrong. The screen size itself was good and same for the projector. The main issue is the sound. The sound always lacks bass no matter what you are watching, and of course there is zero surround sound in their system. Also their seats do recline, however they are not nearly as comfortable as AMC or even Dreamlounger recliners, so there isn’t anything special about SMG. Overall, I don’t really recommend going here unless it’s your only option.

Regal Standard

Regal is probably one of the most interesting theater chains ever. They offer so many different types of viewing experiences, some very unnecessary, and each one seems to be very different from the other. Starting with their standard theater, it really seems like a middle point from Movie Tavern and AMC. Their screen is better than Movie Tavern in which it’s not grainy and it’s normal in size, however unlike AMC it doesn’t seem to have a better picture quality than AMC projectors. Their sound is definitely better than Movie Tavern, but the bass and subtle surround sound that AMC has in their standard viewings still beats Regal’s standard. I would recommend regal standard to those who don’t have an AMC close to them.

RPX

This is where things get weird for Regal. One of their premium screen offerings is titled RPX (they love to add X at the end of everything to make it seem more extreme). RPX is Regal’s SuperScreen DLX or Dolby Cinema if you will. It features a longer screen (longer than IMAX but not as tall as IMAX) than normal screens and their own version of Dolby Atmos called upgraded sound. I will say the sound is not as good as Dolby Atmos, but it does the job and makes for a decent immersive experience. The seats recline and are decently comfortable, and the screen uses a 4K laser similar to Dolby Cinema for a good viewing experience. I definitely recommend this for those who don’t have an AMC with Dolby Cinema near them, for this is the only acceptable alternative for Dolby Cinema.

ScreenX

Probably the stupidest thing on this entire planet that no one asked for, here is ScreenX. This “immersive” experience features three screens, one in the middle, and two angled on the side for a 270 degree viewing experience. In theory, this is supposed to immerse your peripheral vision with the other two screens to make you feel like you're in the movie. This is not the case. For majority of ScreenX movies, only certain scenes are 270 degree compatible, meaning for the rest of the time the two screens are turned off and just distracting you. Speaking of distractions, there’s a noticeable black bar in between each screen, making it feel like the movie is split into three almost and it’s really unnatural. The projector quality is the same 4K laser, and the sound is still Regal’s upgrade sound quality, but the whole concept of three screens is dumb on paper and even worse in real life. Overall, I don’t recommend this movie gimmick to anyone.

Regal VIP Experience

Regal VIP is not really a screen or audio upgrade, but more of a concession upgrade. With a VIP movie ticket you get access to Regal bars both inside and outside the theater (depending on your location), and you have access to a personal waiter that you can order food from ten minutes prior to the movie starting. While the screen and audio itself is basic, the seats are the real reason many people do this. Some locations have a wide recliner that is insanely comfortable and poofy, but some locations have full on La-Z-boys as their recliners! While I have never experienced this luxury (it's 30 dollars a ticket and 21+ for age due to the open bars), I do recommend doing this with friends since it seems to be a fun experience from what the reviews say!

4DX

Out of everything on this list, this is the weirdest format of them all. Exclusive to Regal, 4DX adds a “4th” element to movies to give you a more life like experience. The screen and audio again are standard, however the main difference are the programmed seats and the effects that come with it. The seats are programmed to the movie (similar to an amusement park ride) and move as the characters or things in the movie move to make you feel like you're experiencing what they are feeling. This includes fog and smoke effects, strobe lighting, water effects (can be turned off) and a plethora of other things. The seats have many effects based on what movie you're watching. For The Mario Bros. movie, people said their seats literally moved sideways during the “rainbow road” sequence and that the seats moved pretty fast to simulate the racing experience. For Scream VI however, a “stabbing” effect was placed in the seats where you’d be poked during each stab, and some people reported bruising after this. To add a more extreme note to this experience, you do have to sign a waiver and be over 4 feet tall to watch any movie in 4DX, and you have to wear a seatbelt at all times. I’m going to be honest, I’ve never seen a movie in this format, but I know many people who have. One of my friends said it depends on what you watch in that format. If it’s an action movie, certain fighting scenes might hurt a lot due to the nature of the programmed seat. However for lighter movies like the Mario movie, it was enjoyable and actually fun. If you do want to watch a movie in this format, I highly recommend looking up reviews from people who have seen that specific movie in this format so you know what your getting into!

IMAX at Regal

I'm going to keep this one short since a lot about IMAX in general has already been mentioned in the AMC section, but the same rules go for Regal IMAX as they do with AMC. Always look up online if it is true IMAX, which means a 1.43 aspect ratio, upgraded dual laser projector (so the colors are not washed out and it's a 6k resolution), and the screen size has to be a true IMAX size of 40 feet by 60 feet. In general, more AMC's around the world have real IMAX than Regal, but in my area the only true IMAX is a Regal one. Overall, just check to make sure it is a real IMAX theater before booking otherwise you might be disappointed.

IMAX 70mm, 70mm, and other #mm formats

I decided to put these special formats in its own category because rarely any theater has the capabilities to run these formats anymore. I will start by saying that anything with a mm next to it means it will be shown in analog film strips. Meaning literal film strips will be playing through a projector to make a movie. Don’t worry, it is still going to be at a full 60 frames (or strips) per second, so you won’t notice a difference in time speed. However, these formats are meant to be the highest image quality ever made for a movie screen. 70mm IMAX is the highest image quality for a movie screen in existence. Each frame on the film strip is 10 times larger than the one on a basic 8mm strip (which I will explain in a bit). When played, the image is equivalent to a 16k resolution with crisp quality and the biggest screen size possible in the world (which is IMAX). The reason why 99 percent of films are not filmed on manual film strips anymore is because of how loud IMAX 70mm cameras are and how hard it is to edit these types of movies. That’s why it is extremely rare to see a movie in this beautiful format. I recently saw Oppenheimer in this format since the director Christopher Nolan is the only director who still shoots his movies in 70mm IMAX, and only 30 theaters in the entire world had the capabilities to show this, and the Regal near me was one of them. I will say I noticed why no one makes movies in this format anymore due to the technical difficulties had with loading the film during my showing (the movie started an hour late because of this). However the quality was unlike anything I have ever seen before. It was incredibly crisp and clear for a movie screen, and I was absolutely blown away. They also make just 70mm film, which is just a little shorter than an IMAX screen size. 35mm film is also rarely shown, but it is about the size of a slightly longer standard movie screen, and 8mm film is the size of a standard movie screen (if not just a tad bit smaller). All of these films options will still give you so much better quality than normal digital movies, but it is understandable why people don’t usually film entire movies in analog film, for it’s too expensive and hard to manage the equipment, which is why people switched to digital cameras and digital movie projections. Another major problem is that the film strips get degraded after each viewing due to the light and how it interacts with the film itself, which is why analog film has to be scrapped after a couple of viewings. I will say that I encourage everyone to watch a movie in one of these special film formats (especially 70mm IMAX) because I think it’s a once in a lifetime experience since we never know when the day will come when it’s not feasible to watch movies in this beautiful format.

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