IMAX is a film format created by the IMAX Corporation. The Canadian corporation was founded in 1968 by Graeme Ferguson, Roman Kroitor, Robert P. Kerr and William Shaw, after two multi-screen panoramic films by Kroitor (In the Labyrinth) and Ferguson (Polar Life) debuted at EXPO '67 in Montreal.
Filmakers Ferguson, Kroitor and Kerr realized more technology would be needed to create this complex project, so they teamed up with Shaw, who was an engineer. Shaw created a projector that allowed films to be exceptionally larger than the standard 35 mm. IMAX films started off as documentary/educational films and would later broaden into mainstream film. Tiger Child became the very first IMAX movie ever made. It was featured at EXPO '70 in Osaka, Japan.
The first permanent IMAX theatre, the Cinesphere, opened at Ontario Place in Toronto in May 1971 and showed the movie North of Superior.
Shaw played a crucial role in creating a larger-than-life movie-viewing experience, which include surround sound, large screens and inclined seating. He remained at IMAX as a designer and inventor until his death in 2002. But before he retired, he made one more creation; a 3D camera that was sent to the International Space Station for IMAX.
There are now 10 IMAX theatres across Canada, although there are many more IMAX screens situated within traditional theatres. IMAX theatres are often located within science centres and show science and/or nature-based movies, with the exception of IMAX des Galeries de la Capitale in Quebec, which was once a movie theatre that showed a range of movies but now shows only Hollywood-made IMAX movies.
To make an IMAX movie requires an IMAX camera, which uses a larger film frame – three times the horizontal resolution of a 35mm film frame. IMAX announced "a new fleet of next generation IMAX film cameras" in March 2022, in corporation with Kodak, Panavision, and FotoKem. Directors Christopher Nolan and Jordan Peele are included in a group of advisors assisting in the development phase.
The first studio to release a theatrical film in the IMAX process was Disney, with Fantasia 2000. It premiered at Carnegie Hall in New York City in December 1999, then was released to 75 IMAX theaters around the world on January 1, 2000. The first films shot using the new IMAX-certified cameras were Top Gun: Maverick (2022) and Dune (2021).
Today, there are over 1,700 IMAX theatres around the world in more than 80 countries and territories. The world's largest IMAX screen is located in Leonberg near Stuttgart, Germany. It measures 125 by 72 feet (38 x 22 metres).
Handheld IMAX cameras have recorded 17 space voyages, used by NASA astronauts, with one mounted IMAX camera in a bay of the shuttle. The footage has been included in the 1985 IMAX film The Dream is Alive.
IMAX has also been integrated into amusement park rides, including the flight simulator ride Soarin' Around the World at Disney California Adventure Park and Epcot at Disney World.
IMAX has the ability to display images with much higher resolution that standard conventional formats. The company slogan is "IMAX IS BELIEVING." IMAX®, IMAX® 3D, IMAX DMR®, Experience It In IMAX®, An IMAX 3D Experience®, and The IMAX Experience® are registered trademarks of IMAX Corporation.
IMAX currently has offices in Mississauga, New York City and Los Angeles, London, Dublin, Tokyo and Shanghai.
Select IMAX Theatres are available for rentals.