From the moment "Avatar" came to the big screen and the red-and-blue cellophane gimmick graduated to the badass brain-melting experience it is today, movie geeks like you have been trying to figure out if the higher price of a 3D or IMAX ticket makes sense. After years of deliberation, general consensus is that it’s only worth it if the movie is originally shot in that format, and in the case of IMAX you have to watch it in a really really, REALLY big screen. Gargantuan. You get it.
After a dismal couple of years in film, 2012 is finally a great year to compare this summer's slate of 3D movies. CinemaBlend.com regularly publishes useful articles which rate the 3D aspect of films. In their scoring system, “The Avengers” got a 27 (out of a possible 35), “The Amazing Spider-Man” got a 23, while “Prometheus” got a near perfect 33. What’s the difference? "Prometheus" was gorgeously shot by Ridley Scott in the new EPIC Red camera entirely in 3D while "Avengers" was belatedly converted to 3D in post-production. "Spider-Man" scored lower mainly because of the opinion of their reporter in terms of depth perception and the terrible headache the movie gave her. In my expert cinephile opinion, without the 3D "Spider-Man" could not have been so successful (too soon to reboot, blah blah blah).
Christopher Nolan shot a large part of "The Dark Knight Rises" with the bulky and complicated IMAX camera, for a total of 72 minutes (43% of the film), the most IMAX 15/70 ever used by a big budget film. A big factor in the case of IMAX movies is that it has to be shown in a real IMAX theater. Ever since Aziz Ansari exposed the horrific fraud perpetrated by fake IMAX theaters (or LieMAX), I have been warning everyone to make sure they only pay for movies that are shot in real IMAX cameras and shown in the really ginormous IMAX screen. You are basically watching only half of "The Dark Knight Rises" in a regular-sized screen. The only screen in Manhattan that is a real IMAX theater is the one all the way to the top of the AMC Loews in Lincoln Square. There was a really good article in July in the New York Times that discusses at length the differences in the images. Believe me, the trek to Lincoln Square is worth it. Thank me later. Buh-bye.
In summary, as we found out in “Basic Instinct”:
Sharon Stone: Do you have any coke? I just love coke with Jack Daniels.
Michael Douglas: I have a Pepsi in the fridge.
Sharon Stone: But it's not really the same thing. Now, is it?
(Now substitute Cocaine with Lincoln Square and Pepsi with the "LieMax" in any other AMC or Regal movie theater).
For your reference outside New York, LF Examiner lists all of the large-format IMAX screens around the world.