IMAX Enhanced Ready for Primetime

Since it was initially teased at CEDIA in 2018, IMAX has been parsing out information s-l-o-w-l-y about its new Enhanced program. There have been occasional partner announcements, a random IMAX Enhanced 4K Blu-ray documentary, and promises of streaming providers to come. Well, it seems we are finally at a point where IMAX Enhanced is a thing, and you can start watching movies in some of the best quality available now!

The company had a serious presence at CES this year, with a fairly large booth placed in prime Central Hall real-estate where Intel used to be located. They had several partner kiosk spaces around the booth showing content as well as one large theater (driven by Polk Legend Series speakers and four SVS Audio subwoofers) that offered a cinematic demonstration of the technology.

An actual IMAX 70mm film camera was also on display that had actually been used in space, at the top of Mt. Everest, and the depths of the ocean. The camera is said to capture images in up to 18K native resolution, speaking to the pristine quality of IMAX presentations.

As a refresher, IMAX Enhanced is a system where certified AVRs and processors along with certified displays will play back films that feature IMAX’s exclusive signature picture, sound and scale. The content will all be 4K HDR processed using IMAX’s proprietary Digital Media Remastering technology to accurately reduce noise and grain under the filmmaker’s guidance and best optimize the content for a much higher-quality, higher-brightness 4K HDR display format. Audio is served up via a partnership between IMAX and DTS, and uses DTS:X immersive audio to leverage the same IMAX cinematic mix to deliver a powerful cinematic audio experience with deeper bass and more dynamic range. Finally, if the content was shot with IMAX-certified cameras or specially formatted for IMAX theatres, the Enhanced content will display the full expanded aspect ratio, enabling viewers to see the full scale and scope of the picture on 4K HDR TVs.

To watch Enhanced content in the US, users can go to FandangoNOW to stream content. If you own one of the IMAX Enhanced Sony displays you can also watch select content on Sony’s Privilege 4K service. In European markets, Enhanced content is served up via Rakuten TV, with Tsutaya handling Japan. These platforms all meet the high standard for IMAX Enhanced 4K HDR streaming, however no information was available regarding bitrates.

Content is still pretty thin, with a variety of IMAX documentaries available along with a handful of film titles including Spider-Man: Far From Home, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Bumblebee, The Angry Birds Movie 2. I requested a comprehensive list of available titles, but the IMAX representative at CES said, “IMAX Enhanced title availability naturally varies by region and digital retailer, so there are some sensitivities we’re working through in preparing a comprehensive list approved by partners for public distribution. We hope to have these addressed shortly.”

However, according to IMAX, all 4K Blu-ray titles from Sony going forward will be IMAX Enhanced, with The Angry Birds Movie 2 being the first disc available. Both and Terminator: Dark Fate will be released in the Enhanced format.

IMAX also announced they now have 17 device partners including Sound United (Denon and Marantz), Sony, McIntosh, Harman, Audio Control, Storm Audio, Onkyo, Pioneer, Trinnov, and TCL.