Cinemas have a way of immersing us in the moment, none more so than IMAX – the big-screen, big sound format that sucks you in and won’t let go as you tuck into your popcorn. As a company, IMAX has recently started offering certified IMAX cinema set-ups for home environments and now it looks like yachts are set to take advantage. The process for getting IMAX certification – even in a domestic environment – means meeting strict criteria, but as select home AV specialists gain IMAX installer status the opportunity to have the new, best thing is finally here. For Fusion Automation, its recently announced IMAX installer status also offers yacht owners the chance to go IMAX on board.

“We are permitted to act as a dealer and installer anywhere that doesn’t have an IMAX exclusive dealer agreement,” says Piers Collinson, founder of Fusion Automation and currently managing director of the Monaco operation. “We have a number of projects underway already, and one of those is in a marine environment – we’re also looking at several other potential yacht projects as well. It has become quite the buzzword in the marine market already, which is always looking for the new biggest and best thing, and the characteristics of an IMAX cinema are quite different to what people have seen in the past.”

The whole concept of the IMAX format is that the front wall becomes a giant floor-to-ceiling, curved screen, with the image cast using two projectors instead of one creating a brighter and more defined picture. “It’s a bit more impressive,” quips Collinson with some impressive understatement.

While being ideally suited to large auditorium spaces – not least because the screen dimensions are closer to old-school 4:3 format rather than the 24:9 or 16:9 modern widescreen shape, meaning more height per width of room is needed – IMAX has developed three ‘residential’ scale layouts catering for different sized rooms. The smallest of these, the Palais system, is designed for 10-12 seaters and is proving the perfect springboard for potential yacht installations. However, the requirements on space and technical design in order to meet IMAX standards and get official ‘IMAX’ certification are quite strict.

“Basically we work in collaboration with IMAX right from the start,” Collinson explains. “Even before we sign a contract we go through the space and technical requirements [with the owner or design team] to give an insight of what is needed – it’s a big part of the decision-making process. Once that’s done, we work alongside the [yacht’s] designers – we effectively sit between the designers and IMAX and make sure that both sides of the coin are being respected. But if it doesn’t meet the IMAX specifications it can’t be signed off as an IMAX cinema, so we play an important role.”

While the IMAX library currently comprises mainly specials and newer films shot in the correct format, IMAX is currently undertaking a massive remastering programme to adapt an archive of films to the IMAX format. These are then supplied through the IMAX service, which comes as part of the IMAX cinema package. However, an IMAX cinema is also backwards compatible, meaning that conventional 24:9 or 16:9 films (and the associated surround sound elements) can be watched with no adjustments.

An IMAX cinema – even at the smaller scale – does, however, require significant space, both for the higher screen format and also for the extensive technical kit that comes with it. For this reason, Collinson suggests that it is likely to find popularity on superyachts of 70m plus, and the design considerations also mean that it will more likely be considered for new builds as opposed to being a viable choice for retrofit – depending, of course, on the size of refit vessel. “The [new] boat we are working on,” says Collinson, “doesn’t have an issue because the ceiling height is appropriate considering the width of the room. But generally speaking it has to be contemplated early [in the design process] because an IMAX is higher and that also affects how you tier the seats in the room, and all sorts of other things as well. Aside from the amount of kit, the room dimensions have to be quite precise for it to work properly.”

With prices likely to range from €750,000 to around €3 million depending on the size, specification and the extremes that people want to go to, it may soon be time to grab the popcorn and settle in for an onboard cinema experience like never before. I’ll take mine sweet, please.


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