IMAX VS Cinemark XD: Everything Explained (Table Included)

If you love watching movies at a movie theater, you probably want the best and biggest quality available. IMAX and Cinemark XD are two of the very best formats to watch films in, with huge screen sizes and impressive audio.

The two are often compared, but which is actually best? What are the similarities and differences between the two?

If you want answers, you’ve come to the right place! Below, we’re going to break down all the similarities and differences between IMAX and Cinemark XD, giving you an idea of the many qualities of each format. 

IMAX VS Cinemark XD Everything Explained (Table Included)

IMAX – What Is It?

To start with, let’s have a look at just what exactly IMAX is. Founded in 1967, IMAX (short for “Image Maximum”) can refer to many things: types of camera, projectors, and theaters themselves.

The theaters are known for having massive screens, with lots of tiered seating. Currently, there are over 1500 IMAX theaters around the world, and the number will only increase.

Their popularity can arguably be traced back to the release of Disney’s “Fantasia 2000” movie in – you guessed it – the year 2000. Disney were going to have the movie run exclusively in the IMAX theater format for four whole months.

They even built their own IMAX theater for it! This was the first major film to take its chance on the IMAX theater format and now, two decades later, IMAX theaters are more popular than ever. 

Cinemark XD – What Is It?

Cinemark XD is a similar format of theaters, offering massive screens and full immersion. Though Cinemark theaters themselves were first founded in 1984, their massive Cinemark XD theaters only arrived in 2009.

Why? Because of IMAX! The increasing popularity of IMAX was clearly a money spinner, so Cinemark made their own chain of enormous theaters. 

The “XD” of Cinemark XD stands for “Extreme Digital Cinema”, and the first theater with it opened in San Francisco. Their screens have both 2D and 3D capability, as well as immersive sound.

On the subject of sound, THX finished fitting out every Cinemark screen with their high quality THX sound systems. 

IMAX VS Cinemark XD – Similarities And Differences

The two formats are unquestionably similar, especially since Cinemark was created to rival IMAX. We’re going to break down many of the similarities and differences on a number of their most important features. Read on!


What projectors do the two use? And what formats do they support?

Well, IMAX uses 2K projectors, while Cinemark XD uses the more advanced 4K projectors. These numbers refer to the resolution of the projectors, which regards the number of pixels that are displayed. So, IMAX has a resolution of around 2000 pixels, while Cinemark XD uses 4000. 

To make up for its lower resolution, IMAX prides itself on film projection (as opposed to the more common “digital”). One of their most impressive features is their use of the special 70mm film format, which is 9 times larger than the more traditional format of 35mm.

For example, a film like Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master” from 2012 was specially shot on 70mm film – which would make it perfect for IMAX projection. 

To make IMAX projection even better, they also use lazer projection technology. This improves the quality of the image massively – making the colors richer, the clarity more accurate, and the brightness more detailed.

On the other hand, Cinemark XD theaters are more versatile, allowing more digital formats of movie. At a Cinemark XD, you can watch: 2D films, 3D RealD, D-Box, and even (ironically) IMAX films!

In fact, the projectors that Cinemark XD use are capable of projecting 35 trillion colors onto the screen – which must be massively vibrant. Regarding format types, IMAX theaters by contrast really only tend to play movies that were shot in the IMAX format. 


The screen is a crucial part of the movie theater process – you need to see the film! Both formats have enormous screen sizes, naturally. 

For IMAX, their typical screens are 52 feet high and 72 feet wide, which is an enormous canvas to watch a movie projected on! In fact, the aspect ratio of the screen comes out at 1.90:1.

On the other hand, Cinemark XD tends to have a 70 foot wall-to-wall screen, covering the whole wall from floor to ceiling. 

However, no Cinemark XD screen has compared to the biggest IMAX screen available, which is the biggest in the world. This was installed in Australia in 2016 and measures an enormous 97.4 feet tall and 117.1 feet wide. 


Just as important as the visuals (shown on the screen), audio is essential to a movie – and needs to be done with the best quality possible. This is why both IMAX and Cinemark XD put a lot of quality and attention into their audio systems. 

All IMAX theaters have a 12 channel surround sound system. This means that they use 12 speakers during each movie, which are all positioned at different points in the room.

This is why they’re called “surround” sound – because the speakers surround the audience! This means that the moviegoers are going to be more immersed in the film and its audio, encircled and enveloped by the sound that’s coming from all directions. 

On the other hand, Cinemark XD has an 11.1 multi-channel surround sound system in place. This is done with brands like Auro and Barco. The Auro 11.1 system is an advanced surround sound system that uses lots of speakers all around the room, of different heights.

Some speakers are high, some are low, all giving the effect of audio that completely grips and overwhelms the audience. Their setup allows for the sound to pan, in a sense, and gives an overall crisp and rich sound. 


How do the theaters look? How are they designed? 

Well, IMAX theaters are big – which is necessary when the screens are enormous! They often have very spacious auditoriums and multiple floors. The seating is put in rows going up and up, like they would be at a sports stadium. This means that each person can see the screen, without the person in front blocking their view.

This is especially important when the screen is as big as it is in IMAX theaters. And speaking of the seating? Nice and padded, made for people to relax in and let the movie wash over them. 

However, Cinemark XD are actually quite nicer than IMAX theaters. Perhaps this is because Cinemark was created after IMAX, so they modeled themself on them and then some? 

The Cinemark XD theaters are very large, with lots of room for movement. This is always important for a movie theater because you don’t want the people being clustered uncomfortably against each other – it will ruin the film. Cinemark XD theaters also have luxury seating, which are recliner seats and adjustable. 

However, this is a big difference from IMAX: they also have some D-Box seats. What are these? Also referred to as “4D”, these are special seats that are made to move with the movie! 

Certain films can be seen in stereoscopic 3D, with D-Box seats that move you around with the action. This is a wonderful added layer of immersion so that you can feel exactly like the characters you’re watching.

Enjoying an action film? Feel the rush of the explosions! IMAX theaters don’t have these seats, and therefore don’t quite have that extra level of thrill.

IMAX VS Cinemark XD – A Comparison Table

FeaturesIMAXCinemark XD
TechnologyUse 2K or 4K dual lazer projectors. Also specially project 70mm film format. 
Often offer higher resolution, with rich colors and great brightness.
Use 4K lazer projectors and digital stereoscopic technology. 
Lots of different formats available: 2D films, 3D RealD, D-Box, among others.
ScreenUsually, their screens are 52 feet high and 72 feet wide, with an aspect ratio of 1.90:1. 
However, one IMAX theater has the largest screen in the world, which measures 97.4 feet tall and 117.1 feet wide.
Screens are 70 feet wall-to-wall. 
AudioUse a 12 channel surround sound, placing 12 speakers around the theater for fully immersive sound.Use an 11.1 multi-channel surround sound system from either Auro or Barco. It has a special verticality and depth to it. 
InfrastructureStadium-like seating, meaning no blocked views. Padded seating. Have luxury seats that can be adjusted. 
Also include D-Box/4D seats that move you around in time with the movie.

What Are The Prices?

As you may expect, seeing a film in a much bigger format than you normally would is likely to cost you more at the ticket booth. 

On the whole, they’re not going to cost you too much more than a normal ticket, which is more than worth it since you’re going to get a far better experience. However, IMAX costs about $2 more than Cinemark XD, though you may not consider the experience to be better.

What Is Digital?

What Is Digital

You may have wondered earlier what the difference is between digital and film (the second of which we mentioned when talking about the IMAX 70mm format). 

Well, digital film comes as a file. You know, like the ones you have on your computer? The movies you watch that are projected digitally, are just massive digital files that are played from a hard drive.

Film, on the other hand, is projected off film stock. This comes in different sizes, like 70mm and 35mm, and the projector has to be operated by a professional – who has to change the film reels at certain points because the whole movie cannot fit onto one reel of film.

Film often has a richer color and depth to it than digital, giving it a real and authentic feel that the digital files just don’t replicate. 

IMAX VS Cinemark XD – Which Is Better?

It really depends on what you’re looking for! IMAX theaters and their use of film projection is definitely best for any film buffs who want their movies to have a real sense of weight to their visuals. 

However, Cinemark XD offers far more types of formats, even though they don’t offer film. Cinemark XD offers 2D films, 3D RealD, and D-Box, whereas IMAX theaters only offer movies that are produced in IMAX format.

Ironically, Cinemark XD offers these IMAX films as well, making them far and away the best theater type for sheer variety of format. 

Final Thoughts

There you have it! IMAX theaters and Cinemark XD theaters are both wonderful opportunities for any movie lover to see their favorite movies on the biggest and loudest screens possible. 

Both have their own qualities, but each theater type is more than worth checking out!

Anita Jones