Geek Out! IMAX returns to Cape Town at Cape Gate Ster-Kinekor

IMAX Cape Gate Cape Town

Just a few weeks ago Ster-Kinekor launched Cine Prestige at Cavendish, and now Ster-Kinekor has launched their brand new IMAX theatre at Cape Gate. IMAX has always claimed to be the ultimate viewing experience, but is the new IMAX theatre worth all the hype? Find out below.

A brief summary of my experience is near the bottom of this post, so scroll down if you just want the short and sweet version.

About a week ago Ster-Kinekor sent me an invite to attend the launch of their new IMAX theatre at Cape Gate. They would be showing off their new cinema with the latest chapter of The Hobbit, which not only would be in 3D but would also be in glorious HFR (High Frame Rate).

IMAX Cape Gate Cape Town The Hobbit Battle of the five armies
You got a problem with me Mr. Baggins?

I was pretty amped since I’d never been to IMAX, and I’ve heard a lot of people say it’s freaking amazing. But what makes IMAX so special? The IMAX experience basically boils down to this:

  • Bigger, better screen, with a bigger, better picture, and bigger, better sound

There’s obviously a bit more to it, but that’s it in a nutshell.

What can you expect to pay for the “bigger” experience? Thankfully, the price isn’t that much bigger. The standard price for an IMAX screening is R99. This is discounted to R60.00 for Discovery members and R64.00 for Edgars Club members.

Rowan’s experience of the IMAX launch

I was joined at the launch event by my occasional partner-in-crime, Banzai Bob. The event was pretty packed, probably thanks to all the free food and booze.

IMAX Cape Gate Cape Town launch party

IMAX Cape Gate Cape Town launch party 02

Since we’d already eaten we decided to chill outside (yay for not having to shout to have a conversation).

IMAX Cape Gate Cape Town outside the launch party

The seating for the screening wasn’t reserved, so a little while later we decided to head upstairs to get good spots in the queue. Thankfully we didn’t have to wait too long before they opened the doors.

What was my first impression of the IMAX screen? Honestly, I was expecting it to be bigger.

It's big, but I was expecting more (that's what she said)
It’s big, but I was expecting more (that’s what she said)

The way people talk about IMAX is that it dwarfs all other screens by comparison. This screen was big, but I’m not sure it’s bigger than Cavendish’s biggest 3D screen. After grabbing the best seats for the 3D screening (that’s middle of the row in the seats that best align with the middle of the screen) we sat down. The seating is fairly standard, and is what you’d probably get at most 3D cinemas.

Before the movie started the IMAX representative gave a very short (and very basic) speech on the technology used in the IMAX theatre. The screen uses two state of the art digital projectors and very, very large speakers (seriously, the speakers are about the height of 1.5 vending machines, and probably 2 vending machines wide). The screen is also slightly curved, is closer to the audience and reaches all the way from the ceiling to the floor in order. This is done to fill up as much of the audience’s vision as possible.

This is all very impressive, but what was it like in action?

Honestly, I was not that blown away by the quality of the IMAX screen. Yes, it is the best quality picture I’ve seen at the cinema, but it didn’t feel THAT much better than what I’ve seen at Cavendish. This is could be the result of one of two things: either the IMAX setup at Cape Gate isn’t that great, or that the cinemas at Cavendish are probably pretty damn good. I’m more inclined to go with the latter since I know what bad cinemas are like, and I’ve always had a great experience at Cavendish.

What I will say is that the sound is without a doubt the best of any cinema experience I had. It’s impossible to describe on paper exactly how good it is. You really have to hear it for yourself.

Banzai Bob’s experience of the IMAX launch

It was great to have the opportunity to be at the launch of the new IMAX cinema at Cape Gate (I don’t leave my basement much). The lobby was all bright and shiny and still smelling of new paint.

IMAX Cape Gate Cape Town cinema
Managed to beat everyone else to the front of the queue.

Ster Kinekor’s staff were courteous and professional, and the whole event was run very smoothly. Scuttling away from the schmoozing in the bar area, we managed to get to the front part of the line and pick out premo seats for optimal viewing pleasure. The seats are amongst the more comfy ones I’ve been in, but with the rows quite close together, taller movie goers won’t be able to cross your legs comfortably, if at all.

Once the movie got rolling, I got my first look at an IMAX production in probably ten years. It’s all very big and in your face – maybe a little too big actually, as a combination of the high resolution, high frame rate and super-sized picture make the sets look like, well, sets. The 48fps also takes a bit of getting used to. Initially the film seemed to be running a little faster than it should, but after a while my eyes adjusted enough to be able to focus on the story. I would surmise having ads and trailers before the film may help here, but in our case we were pretty much launched straight in. Easily the star of the show is the sound system. Hands down this is the best sound I’ve ever experienced in a cinema – beautiful, distortion free and not too loud.

In conclusion

The Good

  • The sound! Oh those sweet, sumptuous, sounds!
  • Undoubtedly the best visual experience in South African cinema
  • High frame rate! (Some of the shots look great in HFR – this obviously won’t apply for non-HFR movies)
  • It’s at Cape Gate (great if you live in the northern suburbs)

The OK

  • Despite being the best visual experience, it’s not as far ahead of it’s competition as you’d think, especially considering it’s IMAX
  • The price is not that bad, and the discounted price is the same price as a regular 3D ticket
  • Slightly better seating, same amount of legroom

The Bad

  • High frame rate! (Some of the shots look crap in HFR – this obviously won’t apply for non-HFR movies)
  • It’s at Cape Gate (I’m honestly not sure I would drive all that way from the southern suburbs just for the IMAX experience)

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7 thoughts on “Geek Out! IMAX returns to Cape Town at Cape Gate Ster-Kinekor

    1. Yeah it is. It’s not full scale IMAX. I can’t remember what the name is but basically it’s probably about the size of the biggest 3D screen at Cavendish.


  1. Just got back from the Imax, watched Taken 3.
    The movie was ok but that’s about it.
    What’s the point in having a “premium” (curved) screen and the quality is nothing better than what we’ve seen before?
    Quite a few scenes looked like it was upscaled, not sharp at all, nothing impressive about the image quality.
    I went for the sound… Sadly I was disappointed, very disappointed.
    While the trailers were playing I thought the volume was turned down… When the IMAX intro started 10,9,8,… I knew then I was going to be disappointed.
    “Vertebrae rattling sound…” Yeah right.
    Not once during the movie was I impressed by the visuals or the sound.
    I haven’t seen a HFR movie yet but I can’t rate an IMAX experience on that… When will the see the next big release in HFR??
    I hope the next release will be a better experience – FF7 and Avengers.


    1. I’m guessing the next big release will be probably around the middle of the year. Like you said probably the Avengers will probably be a safe bet. Or maybe the new Watchowski movie, Jupiter Rising, might be also be good.


  2. I remember going to the Imax when it was still at the V&A to watch nature documentaries. Do you really think the cinemas at Cavendish are that good? I’ve found that there are what look like dirty black marks on some of their screens. Sometimes I’d go watch a movie and see the marks, and then a few months later go watch a movie in the same cinema and those exact same marks are still there. I watched Fast & Furious 7 and their cinema 3 still has those marks.
    I like sitting close to the front when I go to the cinema, and in some cinemas I could even see pixels. What resolution are they running? I’ve looked around for answers online and it looks like 2k is the standard.
    So Cavendish isn’t always a great experience for me, unless I make a special effort to look past those things.
    Has anyone else experienced anything similar?


    1. I’ll be the first to admit that not all screens at cavendish are created equal, but the last time I was in their big 3d cinema (I’ll have to go back and see what movie that was), the experience from where I was sitting was not that far off what Imax offers visually. Is Imax better? Yes, but whether it’s that much better than Cavendish’s best 3d screen and whether it’s worth the price and drive to Cape Gate is probably debatable.


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