Replacing the World's Largest IMAX Screen [Video]

By Wesley Fenlon

Seventeen hundred pounds and 11,000 square feet of screen make for one complicated installation process.

There are more than 300 IMAX theaters in the world, but not all IMAX screens are created equal. In 2009, IMAX grappled with negative buzz about its IMAX Digital initiative, as some theaters installed new IMAX digital projectors and charged IMAX rates while showing movies on standard-size screens. A crowdsourced Google Map named IMAX or LIEMAX? calls out the fakes. One theater that definitely avoids that list is IMAX Sydney, which doesn't have a "big" IMAX screen. It has the biggest IMAX screen in the world, measuring 96.7 feet tall by 117 feet wide (29.5 x 35.7 meters). That's over 11,000 square feet, almost twice the size of the average IMAX screen.

So what happens to the world's biggest IMAX screen when thousands and thousands of showings have caught up to it? A small army of IMAX technicians and riggers haul it down and replace it with a new screen. Impressive as the screen itself is, the installation itself is a feat of engineering--it weighs 1763 pounds and costs over $250,000.

ZDNet Australia went to Sydney's IMAX theater to watch the installation of the new screen, which involved tearing down the old screen, hanging the new one and coating it with a special reflective paint to improve the vinyl surface's reflectivity. The previous screen had reached end-of-life after 16 years, and the new one comes with the advantage of a brighter picture. Since the IMAX theater shows 3D movies, every bit of brightness helps.

The screen itself is a monster, but some of the other gear--like the massive rolls of film and $1.6 million projector--is equally impressive. Check out ZDNet's behind the scenes walkthrough:

Image and video via ZDNet Australia