Is IMAX the future of fi lm?
Bryan Avery: One of the problems with conventional film is that it ratchets through projection systems, and it's always bending. So after the first perfect issue, it's downhill onwards.
Once films are all digitised, with enough information to fill that screen - which is only days away - the only sensible way to see big films will be by IMAX. But, there are cultural and social conventions which stand in the way. It's like the qwerty keyboard. In the 1960s, there were several different keyboards around and they were going to revolutionise typing. Of course, they could have done, if it wasn't for the fact that everybody in the world had trained on qwerty keyboards. It's a bit like that with film. If you're spending millions of pounds on actors, then you can't make a film for IMAX, which has only 500 cinemas. You wouldn't be able to pay the wages. That's why IMAX has always had connotations of science and technology. It's cheaper to make documentaries than feature films. They're very profitable because you're not paying the actors and the actresses. Everest was one of the highest grossing films of all time.
So there is a very clear distinction, in cultural terms, between conventional and IMAX cinemas. We were aware of the fact that IMAX needed a new attitude, and that's really where this whole design originated from. The concept is to do with experimenting with a new film format.
Is this building a blueprint for the cinemas of the future?
Bryan Avery: You can only guess what the future holds, but I would have thought that before too long most films will go straight to video. Everything will be available at Blockbuster.
So people will go to the cinema for two reasons: social and spectacle. It's not just to do with film. It's to do with a sense of occasion. I have tried to incorporate some of that into the design. There is a very intimate relationship with the screen. There are two aisles, rather than one central aisle, which make the screen seem more immediate. The seating is incredibly steep, which means that the person in front of you is at tummy level. You're not peering through people's heads.
Also, the seats are quite large.
A lot of thought has gone into the progression through the building. You enter at the lowest level, where the underpass used to be, and rise up through the lobbies until you reach the auditorium right in front of the screen. The audience leaves at the back under the projection box, so the whole experience is a continuous route. You don't go back on yourself. There is a real sense of drama about the moment you enter the auditorium. When you suddenly find yourself at the foot of this enormous screen, it's awesome.