Secretariat – The UltraAVX Experience

Personally, I am an IMAX™ fanatic.  Even before the main feature commences I am enthralled by the Dolby Digital® intro to IMAX™.  It has been said that I pay the extra money just to hear the intro.  So when I was asked to check out the new Cineplex UltraAVX™, or Audio Visual Experience, I was a little skeptical.  I wasn’t sure the new technology could match up to my IMAX™ induced prejudice.

Unfortunately, the movie chosen to debut the UltraAVX™ technology in Edmonton was Secretariat.  It is the story of the most famous horse athlete of the 20th century.  Having watched the triple crown on television as a child, I had seen this amazing horse in action.  Unfortunately, watching a movie about the animal and watching the real animal in action are two completely different things.

Fortunately, I was wrong about my initial fear the movie would be stone-assed boring.  It wasn’t.  Although there were a few slow parts, the film turned out to be quite entertaining and extremely moving.  Perhaps it was more moving after having watched the Belmont Stakes race of 1973 as a child.  So the movie was excellent, but still not the right movie to debut this type of technology.

So what should they have used to roll out the new fad in theatre experience?  I don’t know.  Where IMAX™ is a great format for 3D cinema, UltraAVX™ is supposed to be way ahead using RealD® technology.  Why not use an action film with lots of amazing sound and 3D imagery to really show the advances made using RealD® technology?   Without having experienced the full capability of the technology it is difficult to critique it.

While the screen is a tad smaller than an IMAX™ screen, the UltraAVX™ is massive compared to a regular theatre screen.  They have done a great job of making the film once again fill the entire field of vision.  We were sitting in the exact centre of the theatre.  I think this technology lends itself to sitting higher in the theatre.  I didn’t find, even with the much larger screen, that I had that feeling of being right in the film, as I feel when I am in an IMAX™ theatre.

The dolby digital sound was awesome.  It was much crisper than a normal theatre sound system, though it wasn’t quite as loud as IMAX™.  Where this didn’t hold true was with the bass.  I would love to hear some serious special sound effects through this system.  During the scenes where the horses were in the gate ready to race, thumping their hooves on the dirt, and when they took off, the bass was THUNDEROUS.  The first time the bass actually became apparent had me sitting up in my seat thinking, “WOW, what was that?”  So the sound, all in all, was excellent!  In some ways it is better than IMAX™, in others it is lacking.  At the same time, the clarity is on par with IMAX™.  Either way, UltraAVX™ sound destroys that of even the best digital standard theatre. 

In my opinion, the reserved seating option of UltraAVX™ is great, and long overdo.  I don’t know why IMAX™ hasn’t had this feature.  Indeed, it would be nice if all theatre seating had the reserved option.  It would be so nice to go online and purchase tickets to any movie, in any theatre and be able to reserve seats.  Lineups would become a thing of the past for certain.  At least when you go to a show in a group and there are slow-assed stragglers who show up right before the film starts, you don’t have to be constantly chasing people out of their seats.

Speaking of seating.  The seats are much wider, with much more legroom.  I like this.  The pleather rocker® seats are comfortable, for sure, but I don’t get the rocker motion.  I think they would have been much wiser to keep the seat style, ditch the rocking motion, and put thunder subs under the seats to give that extra touch to deep bass sounds.  This is just my opinion.

In order to give a truly accurate critique of the UltraAVX™ experience I would have to see the same film in all three formats.  Perhaps when Harry Potter comes out I will have this opportunity.  I really want to see a 3D movie, taking advantage of the RealD® technology, in an UltraAVX™ cinema.  Perhaps this will happen soon.  Then I will critique it on my dollar instead of on Cineplex’s dollar.

All in all, it was a good experience.  I would definitely see films in this format as opposed to regular digital format.  I would still, given the choice, see films in IMAX™ excpet, perhaps, for the reserved seating option.  It is great that UltraAVX™ technology makes it much easier to see a great film with a great audio and visual experience in a theatre close to home, as opposed to having to drive all the way to West Edmonton Mall to see it in IMAX™.

UpComing UltraAVX™ (North Edmonton Cineplex Theatre) tickets purchased:

November 21, 2010: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows – Part 1, 7:20 p.m. show, Seats G16-17

December 17, 2010: Tron:Legacy 3D, 7:30 show, Seats H16-17