One of the things Sydney has always held claim to — alongside the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House and Centrepoint Tower — has been the IMAX building in the city’s Darling Harbour. Stretching 35.7 metres wide and 29.7 metres tall, the IMAX screen inside is — or was — the largest in the world, with three times the surface area of a regular IMAX (and, importantly, bigger than Melbourne’s). Now, the IMAX Cinema and retail stores around it will soon close for three years, and it’ll be demolished to be replaced by a slightly smaller screen — albeit inside a much fancier building.
The building proposal for the IMAX Cinema site in Darling Harbour has been around for years, with a $500 million complex proposed by Grocon and Markham Corporation in mid-2013 for a flat-sized, ovoid building called ‘The Ribbon’. That proposal is finally going ahead.
SMH reports today that the work will begin in just over a month, with the cinema closing on September 25. IMAX Sydney chief executive Mark Bretherton said the site was the second most profitable IMAX worldwide in terms of ticket sales, and that the new building will house a new giant screen with 430 seats and a smaller supplementary 40-seat Gold Class-style cinema with restaurant meal service. That new IMAX screen will be slightly smaller than the one currently installed but will still hold the title of world’s largest.
The new cinema’s seating layout chops 90 seats off the current 520-seat setup, but space per paying customer will be larger, in line with competitor seats at Event Cinemas’ V-Max and Gold Class luxury cinema environments. The current layout suits shorter films, but Bretherton told SMH that with the complex showing more feature films, comfort was a priority. The current world’s largest screen was installed in 2012, weighing 800kg and covering over 1000 square metres, but it’s not yet known exactly how big the replacement will be.
What the complex will have, though, is From the developer’s description of the Ribbon building proposal: “The Imax site represents a unique opportunity to contribute to the revitalisation of Darling Harbour and Cockle Bay together with other adjacent projects of major significance in the precinct. The built form is derived directly from the consideration of its urban context, site constraints, adjacent development proposals and site potential.”