Cineplex Odeon's UltraAVX, or Ultra Audio Visual Experience, marketing-speak for "movie theatre with perks," is dubbed "the next level of cinema" by its creators, boasting the following series of features:
- reserved seating
- a giant, wall-to-wall screen
- "crystal clear" digital projection (Christie Solaria 2230 DLP Cinema projectors)
- "immersive" sound system (Dolby digital surround sound system)
- wide, high-back "rocker" seats
There is a catch though. UltraAVX admission costs more, comparable in price to IMAX at roughly $3 more than regular admission plus taxes.
But What's the Point of UltraAVX If There's IMAX?
Having had the chance to test out UltraAVX in August 2011 in Montreal, at the downtown Scotia Bank Cinema, I put Cineplex's claims to the test to answer the questions most want answered: 1) what is the point of Ultra AVX, is it better than IMAX? And 2), is UltraAVX worth paying a higher admission price? So for the sake of comparison, I watched one action movie in UltraAVX (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) and then, I watched a different action movie in IMAX (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2). Both movies were screened one week apart.
Is UltraAVX screen size and image quality better than IMAX?
In terms of image quality, the UltraAVX image is vivid, crisp and detailed, down to the last fine line and crow's foot. IMAX does have a leg up on image, but just by a bit. Screen size? UltraAVX is as wide as an IMAX screen, just not quite as tall, though much bigger than what you'd find in a regular theatre. For perspective, consider that there were a couple of scenes where the apes were leaping towards the screen and it felt as though they were leaping into the audience.
What about sound?
It's a close tie. Both have excellent sound systems, better than in a regular theatre, with IMAX sounding marginally clearer than UltraAVX. But UltraAVX seemed louder with respect to bass, with rumbling you can feel through your seat, depending on the scene. Definitely the kind of sound system you'd want for an action movie.
So, is UltraAVX comfier than an IMAX Theatre? Is It Worth the Ticket Price?
From my point of view, it's a big YES. I pretty much stopped going to see movies in regular theatres over issues like having to sit through 30 minutes of previews I'd skip if I didn't have to get there early to get a good seat. Then there's being stuck sitting in the aisles to keep bathroom checks an option without having to disrupt half a row just to get out of the room. And regular theatre seats inevitably lead to achy leg and hurty ass syndrome, which, in my case, usually kicks in 60 minutes into a flick. Barefoot, I'm 5'8" and with heels, I reach closer to or beyond 6', so I need room for my gams. UltraAVX verdict? Said legs approved of the seats, which are wide and spaced out. You can even recline at will without bothering viewers behind you and the seats are soft and cushiony, better than IMAX seats, with zero rear ache and leg stiffness courtesy of the "rocking chair" movement that allows for a recline without disturbing anyone, a pain-free first in my personal, full-adult-height-movie-theatre-watching history. Last but not least, seat reservations are the sweet, sweet icing, allowing viewers to skip all the previews, show up late, and still get the spot they coveted, this, without ruffling those already seated, as leg room is spacious enough to let latecomers and the bathroom-bound pass through without anyone having to shift and/or stand up to give way. And ticket counter lineups can be bypassed altogether by reserving seats online.
Cineplex's Pat Marshall wasn't kidding when he said they wanted to "build the kind of auditorium that our theatre guests would build if they were the designers.” In one ultra swoop, Cineplex eliminated almost everything I loathed about cinemas, re-crafting the movie-going experience into something fun and stress-free, an experience that could very well rival the comfort of home theatres.
UltraAVX is available at Montreal's Scotia Bank Theatre. Click here for prices and listings.
In line with About.com's and the New York Times Company's full disclosure policy, readers should be aware that Evelyn Reid was provided with complimentary tickets for review purposes, a common procedure in the entertainment industry. Also note that the latter gratuity has not influenced this review. For more information on full disclosure at About.com, please consult our ethics policy.