For more than the last decade, digital cinema has made traditional 35mm film nearly obsolete. instead of a reel of film, movies are now stored on a hard drive that can be played digitally.
However, the digital age has also brought with it some confusing terminology. instead of a movie being 35mm or 70mm, a trip to amc theaters now forces you to decide between dolby cinema, imax, prime, reald 3d, bigd and a lot of other types of cinema and screen.
Complicating matters further is that AMC also sells tickets that are simply labeled “digital” for the type of screen. this has led many users to wonder what amc digital means and how it differs from the other options.
Keep reading and we’ll clear up your confusion. As going to the movies continues to get more expensive, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting good value for your hard-earned money.
quick answer: what does amc digital mean? what does digital mean in movies?
the easiest way to explain the meaning of amc digital is that it refers to a standard amc display without advanced features like imax, dolby cinema, etc.
Because 35mm film is almost extinct, it seems redundant for AMC to refer to their theaters as “digital”, but I suppose it sounds better than saying “basic” or “original”.
digital cinema has made “traditional” 35mm (and 70mm) film almost obsolete. So if you walk into an AMC, Regal, Cinemark, or any other modern movie theater, you can expect the movie to play in digital cinema format (rather than reel film).
Digital cinema basically means that the film is stored on a hard drive instead of a roll of 35mm film. this format provides many benefits.
First, digital film is much easier and cheaper to ship, compared to bulky, heavy roll film.
Next, the digital format means that a film can be played almost an infinite number of times without wearing out or degrading. with traditional film, film degradation over time is inevitable.
also, digital cinema won’t have the audible projector sounds that an old school projector would have. for those of us nostalgic for the Americana of years past, this is a drawback. but objectively, removing this background noise is somewhat beneficial.
Do movie theaters still have 35mm film?
There are still a handful of theaters that use 35mm film projectors. this has become a niche experience for purists and can be found in arthouse-style cinemas.
but for the most part, 35mm film has become obsolete.
however, there are some exceptions to this rule.
In recent years, a couple of the world’s best directors have chosen old-school cinema over modern digital technologies.
christopher nolan produced interstellar in 2014 using 35mm film in addition to 70mm imax photography. the film was a masterpiece of cinematography and approached $700 million at the box office. nolan also used 70mm imax for his 2017 film dunkirk.
In 2015, Quentin Tarantino released The Hateful Eight on 70mm film. after a limited 70mm release (not many theaters still have this technology, remember!), the film was shown worldwide in digital formats. Tarantino has been an outspoken opponent of film digitization, even calling digital projection “the death of cinema.”
Why don’t more directors continue to make movies on 35mm or 70mm film? well, there are so many logistical problems. With digital cinema, lighting deficiencies can be corrected digitally, rather than old-school film that demands perfect stage lighting. it’s just faster, easier, and more efficient to do things digitally, even if it draws the ire of movie industry purists.
And more importantly, even if you can make a movie on 35mm film, distribution offers a new set of challenges. most theaters don’t have the necessary projectors to play this movie. and each roll of film is bulky, heavy, and expensive to produce and ship.
With digital film, you can create thousands of copies of a film for minimal cost.
what is amc digital vs. imax?
again, “amc digital” is just a fancy name for the standard amc display. imax is an improved display that is more vivid and larger.
However, the name imax has morphed into several different formats in recent years.
Previously, imax referred to a very high quality digital experience and was the gold standard for movie theaters. Now, theater chains (such as AMC) have captured the imax name by marketing smaller, less technically impressive screens as the “imax experience.”
Although the name imax is not as significant as it used to be, it is still a better digital experience than amc digital, which is a basic and standard format.
no theater chain is more confusing than amc. In addition to Prime, IMAX, Dolby, RealD, and BigD, AMC markets its entry-level display as AMC Digital. In truth, this is just a basic and varied movie theater with no extra bells and whistles.
if amc had called it a standard screen, there would be no confusion. instead, they chose to call their basic offering “amc digital” as if all movie theaters weren’t now playing digital cinema.
The bottom line here is that AMC Digital is a basic offering, so if you want an upgraded experience, you should consider Imax, Prime, or especially Dolby Cinema.