I had a chance to experience it at its “soft opening” recently. The invite was for the 45 minute, made-for-IMAX movie The Young Black Stallion at the new IMAX theatre and to learn more about the venue.
The screen itself, befitting the brand, was gigantic. The dimensions were 29 meters by 22 meters (which is equivalent to 95 feet by 72 feet). That’s huge! To give it a sense of scale, the new IMAX screen is approximately 1.5 times the size of the Vox MAX (Extreme) screen at Mirdiff City Centre, and approximately 1.3 times the size of the IMAX screen at Grand Ibn Batuta. Put another way, imagine placing approximately 29 units of 42″ flat screens next to each other and another 29 units of 42″ flat screens on top of each other just to replicate the width & height of this new IMAX screen, which is the same as watching a spread of a whopping 840 flat screen 42″ TVs for the surface area this new IMAX screen covers! Simply put, it is HUMONGOUS.
The screening I attended though failed to unleash the full potential of the theater, as The Young Black Stallion featured atrocious performances and little else. This movie was released nine years ago, is dated and shows. It wasn’t up to mark to what we, as audiences, have been used to recently in terms of audio visual potential. To better judge the projection and sound quality, I would have preferred to watch a better or more recent shot-for-IMAX production. Despite this shortcoming, what was evident was the sheer size of the screen, and how much of our peripheral vision it managed to occupy. A few minutes into the film, I removed my prescription glasses, because they hindered what the naked eye could observe uninhibited. The movie projected at full-screen is a sight to behold, and come official opening, it is likely to be a venue that must be experienced for movies with *big* production values (The upcoming The Dark Knight Rises, perhaps?). While there were imperfections with the film’s reel with what looked like specs of dirt or blemishes that would often appear in lighter areas, I am guessing this had more to do with the age of the film’s reel rather than the quality of the screen or projection. Further experiences at the venue will probably help verify this.
The theater itself had 16 or so rows and I was seated on the 11th row from the top, close to the horizontal center. While this gave a good view of the entire screen, I had to crane my neck upwards to take stock of the magnitude of its height. Ideally, I would rather choose to sit anywhere between rows 7 to 9 for a more comfortable vantage point though I cannot yet say how the viewing experience would be from the higher rows. The key difference in the seating arrangement between IMAX Ibn Batuta and the IMAX at Meydan was the distance from screen-to-seat. Unlike Ibn Batuta, where the seats seem uncomfortably close to the screen, the seat-to-screen distance at Meydan was better and hence more comfortably viewable. This helped, especially since it did not require turning my head side-to-side as frequently, unless there was some action towards the edge of the screen that required my viewing attention. The entrance to the theater was from the sides, from a step below the lowest row. The seats flipped upwards when not occupied, probably to compensate for the limited leg room between two rows. The seats were adequately comfortable with drink holders between each seat.
The lobby and reception areas of the theater had not been completed yet, but that is expected since the theater does not open to the general public until Eid-ul-Fitr of this year, i.e., 3rd week of August. The theatre has its own dedicated entrance at the Meydan complex, ahead of the main entrance to the hotel. A basement level with plenty of parking was also ready. Visitors who park at the basement can take escalators or an elevator to the 3rd floor, where the theater is located.
At present, the complex is home to just this one IMAX screen. There may be plans to add regular screens, but those have not yet been finalized. Emphasis though was given to the fact that the Meydan complex would eventually be a family destination with sufficient activity areas for kids and adults.
Since this summer’s The Dark Knight Rises is partially shot on IMAX (approx. 50 minutes of it), and scheduled for release on 20th July in the U.S.A., it is highly likely that the movie’s release may be delayed in U.A.E. (and the Middle East) due to Ramadan for an eventual Eid release. If so, expect Meydan to take the opportunity for a grand opening tie-in event. I anticipate being in line with many others to watch Batman on the biggest screen in the Middle East.