Far from your local cineplex's marginally enhanced "IMAX Experience," these seven theaters are the best, the biggest, and the craziest thunderdomes IMAX has to offer.
Cinesphere - Toronto, Canada
IMAX is a Canadian company, so it makes sense that their first permanent installation, built in 1971, would be in the New York City of the north, Toronto. The Cinesphere is a 752-seat theater boasting an 86-foot wide, 60-foot tall screen, and built in the shape of a Disney-esque dome. It's located at Ontario Place, an amusement park on the shore of Lake Ontario.
L'Hemisferic - Valencia, Spain
If you've only seen straightforward designs for movie theaters, even a (yawn) sphere, Valencia's L'Hemisferic theater will blow you away. It's constructed in the shape of a giant eye, with the theater in the "pupil," and doubles as Europe's largest planetarium. Designed by Santiago Calatrava, it was completed in 1998 and serves as the centerpiece of Valencia's "City of Arts and Sciences."
Darling Harbour - Sydney, Australia
The 540-seat Darling Harbour IMAX, in one of Sydney's most scenic areas, is the largest IMAX screen in the world at 117.2 feet wide and 96.5 feet high. Its projector requires not one, but two 15,000-watt bulbs, and requires an insane cooling system that "pumps 1,600 cubic metres of air and 36 litres of distilled water through the lamp housing every minute." The sound system is similarly massive: A 15,000-watt digital surround sound system. A note to Aziz Ansari: If you're trying to see Star Trek on a real IMAX, we might suggest a trip to Australia.
Futuroscope - Poitiers, France
Housed in the Parc du Futuroscope, an all-around awesome-sounding French theme park based on multimedia and technology, the Kinescope theater is the only one in the world to house every single type of IMAX: Normal, dome, 3D, dome 3D and flying-carpet-style. The "flying carpet" type screen features a second screen on the floor, giving the sensation of a
mushroom trip weightless or floating experience.
The Golden Snail - Jakarta, Indonesia
Possibly the most gorgeous, organic IMAX theater in the world, the Golden Snail Theater (also know as the Keong Emas IMAX) in East Jakarta, Indonesia is meant to resemble the golden apple snail, a national symbol of Indonesia. It was the largest screen in the world from 1985 to 1991, and the 930-seat theater (quite possibly the largest-capacity IMAX theater in the world) is now mostly used for tourist films on the natural beauty of Indonesia. Interestingly, the Golden Snail Theater has never shown a film about the golden apple snail.
Science Museum of Minnesota - Saint Paul, USA
We could have gone with the oppressively garish "Broadway at Myrtle Beach" IMAX for the sole American entry, or even the world's largest IMAX dome (though not the largest screen) in the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City. But for us, the Science Museum of Minnesota's crazy convertible dual-screen system takes the cake in the States. It was the pioneer of the convertible screen, which features both a flat screen and a dome that can be rotated to show made-for-domes IMAX movies known as Omnifilms. It also boasts the "largest permanently installed electronic cinema projector in the world," but the massive mechanical structure is what placed this theater on our list: The exterior of the theater actually had to be built around the screen's mechanism!
Prasads IMAX - Hyderabad, India
After the former World's Largest Screen (Adlabs IMAX in Mumbai) was torn down, the Prasads IMAX in Hyderabad stepped up to the plate. Prasads IMAX may not be the largest screen or even the largest dome in the world, but it is the single most popular theater in the world. Its 72-foot high, 95-foot wide screen is accompanied by 635 seats and a 12,000-watt sound system. The Prasads IMAX made its name by being the most attended screen in the world for major blockbusters like the Harry Potter and Spiderman movies.