IMAX CEO boldly defends smaller screens, seeks out new reasons for $5 surcharge

The fight/debate over paying $5 more to see the new "Star Trek" movie on an IMAX screen, only to find out that it's not playing on a huge IMAX screen but on a movie screen that is only a bit bigger than a regular one, is getting a little juicier.

Tuesday, the CEO of IMAX, Richard Gelfond, defended the more modest IMAX screens, saying the extra price is worth it, even if the screen size isn't much different than a traditional movie theater, according to

Using a process called Digital Remastering, the resolution is increased, the sound quality is enhanced, and several front rows are removed to improve the viewer's experience, according to Gelfond.

Actor and comedian Aziz Ansari on Monday slammed IMAX on his blog, complaining that the $5 surcharge is a ripoff because it wasn't the regular IMAX screen that customers have come to expect for that price. Ansari wanted his $5 back on principle, but was instead offered free popcorn and a soda.

Ansari is now calling Gelfond out to go on television and debate the issue with him. Going up against an actor and a comedian? It's doubtful Gelfond will go for it.

But in the story, Gelfond said that the more modest IMAX screens have been around for at least six years and that positive feedback from consumer testing and ticket sales at those theaters is significant.

"IMAX did 15% of Star Trek's total domestic box office in the whole country on only 138 screens, which is less than 2% of all movie theaters, Gelfond said. "This is compared to the earlier releases of Watchmen, where we did 12% of the box office and Monsters and Aliens, where we did around 10%. Clearly a lot of people are going back to IMAX theaters."

Ansari makes the point that before he bought his ticket for "The IMAX Experience," he had no way of knowing that it was for a smaller screen. Paying $5 more should have put him "in" the movie, as IMAX likes to advertise.

Aaron Crowe is an unemployed journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Read about his job search at

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