Best Seating for IMAX: Secrets for Perfect Spots

Updated on: December 23, 2023

IMAX is one of the best cinema formats that you can choose. But you may ask, Is IMAX Worth It? That’s a valid question!”So, if you have decided to enjoy a movie at an IMAX cinema, you might be wondering which seat will allow you to enjoy the film to its fullest potential.

The choice of seat in an IMAX cinema depends on personal preferences; however, based on audio/visual experts and health specialists, some seats are more comfortable than others. Let’s discuss the seating arrangement of the IMAX cinema, how sitting in different seats would impact your watch time and the factors you should consider before selecting a seat. 

Quick Answer: The best seat in an IMAX Theater really depends on personal preference, but generally, seats towards the back and in the center are considered ideal. This position offers a comprehensive view of the giant screen and avoids neck strain from looking upwards. But remember, it’s all about your comfort, so pick a spot where you feel you’ll enjoy the movie the most!


Factors To Consider Before Choosing A Seat

Best Seating for IMAX graph

While you purchase a ticket for your favorite movie in the IMAX cinema, you’re provided a layout or seating chart of the cinema room, from which you can decide the one you want. However, there are different factors that you must consider before choosing a seat. Let’s look into each one of them.

Sound System

IMAX cinemas utilize uncompressed audio formats and a 12-channel surround sound system that delivers audio in a 360-degree projection, providing an extremely immersive movie-watching experience.

Since the audio is too loud and comes from everywhere in the cinema, you must choose your seat carefully. Sitting too close to the speakers will only make you uncomfortable and distracted during the movie. So, it’d be better to choose a seat at a safe distance from the speakers.

Sound experts suggest choosing a seat in the center of the cinema, where the sound is projected perfectly. 

Video Projection

Another important factor to consider before choosing a seat in the IMAX cinema is the image projection on the screen. This is especially relevant when you consider the differences in watching experience between IMAX Vs. Standard Cinemas. Where you sit in the theater will decide how you’ll view the movie on the screen and enjoy it. 

If you’re sitting in the front row or too close to the screen, you’ll have to sit with your neck bent as you struggle to watch the complete picture on the gigantic IMAX screen. Furthermore, sitting too close may also cause motion sickness to some viewers, which means an uncomfortable watch time.

While sitting in the back seats will provide a clear view of the screen, you’ll be uncomfortably close to the sound system, which may not be ideal for some viewers.

However, sitting at the center will give you the perfect screen view without bending or tinting your head. In addition, you’ll also be able to enjoy the immersive audio experience to complement the vivid video projection.

Keystone Distortion

Keystone distortion is when the projected image is distorted, making it wider at one end and narrower at the other. It happens when the projector’s lens and camera’s sensor are not aligned properly. 

IMAX Theater fixes this type of issue beforehand. Still, some keystone distortion remains and can be seen from different angles or different seating positions in the cinema, making the picture wide or narrow from certain seats. 

So, you should choose seats with minimal keystone distortion. Audio/visual experts suggest choosing a seat in the center of the cinema to avoid this problem.

Watching Experience At Different Seating Positions

Now, let’s talk about the movie-watching experience in an IMAX theater from different seating positions. You might also be interested in comparing IMAX vs 4DX to understand different cinema technologies.

Front Seats

Front Seats imax

You might want to get the front-row seat at first, thinking that the closer you are to the screen better the watch time will be. However, the IMAX screens are up to 72 feet tall, so you’ll not be able to see the complete picture or screen while sitting too close, and you’ll have to tilt your head or keep your neck bent for the whole movie.

Medical experts advise avoiding the front seats as keeping your neck and head tilted longer can stress your spine and make you feel uncomfortable and tired during the movie. Furthermore, sitting too close to the screen may be too overwhelming and cause motion sickness.

Finally, the front row seats are too close to the speakers of the surround sound system, making the audio bit too louder, which can be stressful for the eardrums in the longer run.

Central Seats

Central Seats imax

The best seating for the IMAX cinema is at the center of the theater room. It’s advised to choose the central seats for optimal audio-video experience while watching a movie. You can find these seats by dividing the cinema into three equal parts and then choosing the seats in the exact center of 2/3 of the seating portions.

From the central seats, you get the best video view without having to tilt your head or stress your spine, and the audio is also immersive enough without being too loud. 

Back Seats

Back Seats imax

The back seats sometimes seem a good option as you can comfortably see the whole IMAX screen here. However, these seats are too close to the rear surround sound system speakers and can be too loud. 

Furthermore, the image may appear distorted for some seats in the back because of the keystone distortion effect, making the picture look wider or narrower from some ends. This is especially noticeable when comparing IMAX 3D vs RealD 3D.

Which One’s the Best?

For choosing a seat in an IMAX cinema, you must consider multiple factors, including audio system arrangement, image projection, and keystone distortion. However, there are other factors that impact the seating choice, like seat availability and personal choice of seating, for instance, sitting on a side row to make it in and out of the cinema easily when required. 

According to health care and audio-video experts, the best seating for IMAX theater is in the exact center of the theater. These seats for optimal movie experience are always two-thirds from the screen. In other words, these seats are about four to five rows from the front and the back. 

So, book your tickets and enjoy your favorite movie to the fullest in the IMAX cinema.


Where is the best seat in an IMAX cinema for optimal viewing and sound experience?

I would recommend sitting as close to the center of the theater as possible, ideally in a middle row, to ensure the best viewing and sound experience. This is because IMAX cinemas are designed to offer optimal audio-visual experiences from the center. However, if the center seats are taken, sitting in a seat that is slightly to the side but further back can also provide a comfortable viewing experience, as it avoids neck strain and allows for a fuller view of the screen. The IMAX design generally allows for decent viewing even from side angles.

Is sitting closer to the screen in an IMAX cinema a good idea?

I would advise against sitting too close to the screen in an IMAX cinema, especially for movies with a lot of action or for 3D movies. Sitting too close can lead to a less immersive experience as it may require more head movement to see the entire screen, and it can also distort the 3D effects. It’s generally better to sit at least halfway up the theater, where the scenes are constantly shifting but still clear, and the 3D effects are more balanced.

How does sitting in different rows affect the viewing experience in an IMAX cinema?

I’ve found that sitting in different rows can significantly impact your viewing experience in an IMAX cinema. Sitting in the center of a middle row is usually the best as it allows the screen to fill your peripheral vision from all sides without causing strain. However, if those are taken, sitting just above the middle row can also provide a comfortable viewing experience, allowing the image to fill your peripheral vision while avoiding the need to lift your head to see the middle of the screen, preventing neck strain during a full-length movie.
Remember, the goal is to find a seat where your eyes are pointed straight ahead or slightly down, and where the screen fills your entire field of view without requiring excessive head movement. And, of course, personal preference plays a significant role, so it might take a few tries to find your ideal seat!

How does sitting at an angle affect the viewing experience in an IMAX cinema?

When I choose seats in an IMAX cinema, I try to avoid extreme angles because they can impact the viewing experience, especially for 3D movies. IMAX cinemas are designed to minimize distortion, but sitting at a sharp angle can still lead to a less immersive and less comfortable viewing experience. The visuals may appear skewed, and the 3D effects may not be as impactful. However, if the only available seats are at an angle, I would recommend choosing one that is further back, as this can help in reducing the distortion and maintaining a fuller view of the screen.

Does the row you choose impact the sound quality in an IMAX cinema?

Absolutely, the row you choose can indeed impact the sound quality. I’ve noticed that sitting in the middle of the theater, just slightly more than halfway between the screen and the back of the theatre, often referred to as the “mixing position,” usually provides the clearest separation between the surround sound channels and optimal sound quality. This is because IMAX sound systems are calibrated to provide the best audio experience around the center of the theater. If you sit too close or too far from the screen, or too far to the side, the audio balance and immersion can be compromised. So, for the best auditory experience, aim for a seat that is centrally located in relation to the screen and the surround sound speakers.

I’m Shaun Conroy, an audiophile & founder of HiFi Audios. Holding a Bachelor’s in Sound Engineering, I bring deep expertise in audio devices and offer insights & recommendations to fellow enthusiasts.

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