The Game of Thrones IMAX Experience I attended recently was a whole lot of fun and a great way to see something different on the big screen. Although some people may not see the merit of paying to see the last two episodes of season 4 back to back on such a large screen when they've already seen it on the small screen, I would insist that any fan of Game of Thrones do themselves the favor and not miss the event while its running for the next two or three days. If you’re reading this after the chance has already left select theaters, rest assured that this will be something that HBO will most likely continue to do for this particular show with each season going forward, and potentially others shows as well.
The movie previews were nearly all Sci-Fi or Fantasy which was great to see on the big screen, as these kinds of movies don't get much attention outside of Star Wars or Marvel movies. And before I knew it, "Previously on Game of Thrones" kicks in and soon we were at the top of the Wall waiting for the wildling army to begin their siege on Castle Black. It was an awesome site to see sheer size and spectacle of the events to be stretched to a screen so big. Most people I know, myself included, watched several episodes from their cell phone or tablet out of convenience. Those among us with massive TV's are few and far between and I cannot count myself among them. To see the tension reaching its climax in the cold, frozen north go from a 30 inch television to an IMAX screen was something that just felt right.
Then the torches were light, the horns were blown, and the fighting began. I had already seen the episode back when it aired, but like this it felt like each time a sword clashed against an ax, the outcome might be different. We all knew Jon Snow didn't know anything, but this time maybe he would (he still didn't). When the giants first erupted from the forest riding their mammoths I could feel myself lean back further in my chair in an attempt to see them all at once. Hearing the roar of these mammoths ,or the explosions from dropped oil barrels, created sounds so fierce they shook my chair. It was glorious to see the gruesome battle take place, and quicker than I realized it was over. The wildlings had retreated, the gate had been held, the castle stood as it had for over ten generations, and the dead were burned (and so their watch has ended). It absolutely flew by, and as the credits rolled on that episode I squirmed in my seat awaiting the next.
It's fairly safe to say that the last episode of the season which played next went by just as quickly, with each storyline getting wrapped up or setup for the following season that begins this April. Seeing the duel between Brienne of Tarth and The Hound was brutally intense. If you thought they seemed tall before, check them out on an IMAX screen. The details of Sandor Clegane's scarred face, dirty teeth, and battle scarred armor made him far more imposing than he ever was before. It also served just as well to highlight Brienne's impressive stature, brilliant Valerian steel sword "Oathkeeper", and the nobility with which she wore her courage. When the two came to blows it was a vicious spectacle that felt had been done justice in that setting. But it was the scenes with Tyrion Lannister that felt the biggest. His actions would have arguably the furthest reaching impact on the seven kingdoms, and without getting into why, it's safe to say that his pain and anger came off profoundly on the massive screen. And with the incredible sound system playing The Rains of Castemere, it was hard not to be left breathless.
Soon after it had all started the event had come to a close, and despite the selling point of a featured sneak peek at season 5 being deflated (by that very trailer being put online a few days before) it was still one of the most rewarding times I've had in a cinema. But I didn't pay for a trailer, I paid for the experience of seeing the epic conclusion of Game of Thrones season 4 on IMAX and I got exactly that.
Although this IMAX treatment makes sense for more bombastic season finales like the Game of Thrones, I can’t imagine it going over as well for most of their comedy shows or dramas. However I would welcome regular theaters, not just IMAX, being allowed to screen stand-up comedy specials unique to HBO, or the last three episodes of something like "Silicon Valley" or "Hello Ladies." The biggest detriment to this idea, I imagine, would be that this would take away shelf space from bigger movies that will get people in seats. But for the months that are known to have awful movies in theaters, I imagine this might be a boon to the movie viewing public, which has been dwindling consistently for years now.
So in retrospect, after paying an elbow and a knee for a ticket, taking out a loan for some popcorn, and finally making my way into the theater I was pleasantly surprised to see the place wasn't packed to the brim. This was a huge benefit of the decision to make the event last a week long instead of just a weekend, like the event had originally intended. Having the luxury of putting my feet up without having to worry about people sitting right next to me was nice. After having been a veteran of midnight-screenings for over nearly two decades I've learned that some things are not worth fighting for, and a movie seat is definitely among them, especially at midnight. Being cramped and sweaty is not an ideal way to watch anything, and when you add in the "aroma" from nerd-crowds making it a potentially awfully smelling place, the risks can certainly outweigh the rewards. This is easily fixed by creating larger windows for people to view special events or limited releases to fill the gaps from generic movies with no buzz that people aren't going to see anyway. However with movie theaters catching wind of the fact that if they have midnight screenings that take place at 7pm and again at 10pm, it will get people back in theater to have a good time. This will take the pressure off from the people who want to enjoy a movie, and not just cater to those who need to prove a fandom.