Independence AMC opens new IMAX theater

Jerry and Sylvia Powell saw “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” on a traditional movie screen at 3 p.m. Wednesday at AMC Independence Commons 20.

Little did they know that they would choose to see it again Wednesday evening – only this time in IMAX.

The Powells, who reside in Napoleon, Mo., left the theater shortly before 6 p.m. and came across prize drawings and booths set up for the opening of Independence’s first IMAX theater. Previously, IMAX 3-D locations within a 50-mile radius of Independence included Olathe, Kan., and North Kansas City. 

The Powells said they had seen IMAX movies at the Kansas City Zoological Park, Disney’s Epcot Center and Union Station. Sylvia said the IMAX experience makes the movie more lifelike. 

“Nobody told us,” Sylvia said while standing in line to draw prizes from a life-sized popcorn container. “We would have waited to get into that one. It’s wonderful, especially with mainstream movies being shown on it, not so much with the dinosaurs you see at the zoo. It’s exciting, though, that it’s here.”

Brian Bonnick, executive vice president of technology at IMAX Corporation, said IMAX’s projection technology enhances the movie-viewing experience. In general, IMAX movies provide up to 30 percent higher contrasting, which equals blacker blacks and more shades of blacks, Bonnick said. It also provides up to 60 percent higher brightness that contributes more to color saturation and can be maintained for the lamp’s life span, he said.

The 42-year-old IMAX started opening commercial locations in the mid-1990s, but it wasn’t until 2003 when Bonnick’s research group developed a multiplex system that now holds a patent. This recent technology, known as DMR, allows filmmakers to shoot movies with means they are comfortable with and then it is converted for the IMAX experience, the Toronto-based Bonnick said. 

With an optical feedback system that enhances the quality of presentation, IMAX calibrates itself daily. A wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling screen is curved toward audience members and moved closer than the prior screen when retrofitting former movie theaters, such as the Independence Commons theater.

“Everything is focused on putting you, the audience member, into the movie perspective,” Bonnick said. “Part of reality is hearing sound as it was originally recorded, so part of the experience is feeling your body palpitate like you were at a rock concert. You can also hear a pin drop.”

“Transformers” features larger-than-life alien robots, but the Kansas City Robotics Society and FIRST Bots of Independence were present Wednesday night to show that robots also exist in Kansas City. Thirteen FBI students from Van Horn, Truman and William Chrisman high schools were present, demonstrating this year’s robot, “Pickles.”

“It’s a really good crossover of what we do versus what they put on the movie screen,” said Jared Hook, an FBI adviser. “It’s not as advanced or progressed, but it shows that robotics is in Kansas City. These kids really love this. It allows them to apply science and engineering concepts to the real world and how they’ll really use it.”

Chris Mavis, a 2009 Truman High School graduate, visited his former FBI teammates Wednesday night. The evening prior, all of the students viewed “Transformers” on the IMAX screen.

“A lot of the effects were amazing. You can tell it had a huge production,” Mavis said. “I wouldn’t give it a perfect score, but it was good.”

History of the IMAX

1967: The IMAX motion picture projection system develops in EXPO ‘67 in Montreal, Canada, with a single projector instead of multiple projectors that were once used.

1970: IMAX technology premiers at the Fuji Pavilion EXPO ‘70 in Osaka, Japan. The first permanent IMAX is installed one year later at Ontario Place Cinesphere in Toronto.

1984: The IMAX camera launches into space on board Space Shuttle Columbia for the filming of “The Dream is Alive.”

2002: IMAX DMR, a technology that enables conventional Hollywood film to be digitally remastered into IMAX’s format, is unveiled.

2007: AMC Entertainment and IMAX enter a joint venture agreement to install 100 IMAX digital projection systems at AMC locations in 33 major U.S. markets.

2009: AMC Independence Commons 20 opens its first IMAX theater on June 24.

Source: IMAX  Corporation Web site