Desert IMAX Theatre

68510 East Palm Canyon Drive,
Cathedral City, CA 92234

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The Desert IMAX Theatre is a single screen IMAX theater built in 1999, it is located in Cathedral City. It is also anchored on the other end of the parking lot by the Mary Pickford Theatre. It has an IMAX SR projector showing 15/70 film.

In 2003 the theatre was about to go out of business, and in order to keep tourists coming to other businesses in this part of the desert, the theatre was actually purchased by Cathedral City. SR Entertainment manages the theater. The city has invested about $320,000 each year to keep this IMAX operational.

The theatre itself is quite nice, seating 279 people with a screen that is 70 feet wide by 52 feet high. There is not a bad seat. They show traditional IMAX 15/70 short films in the early afternoon, and then play IMAX DMR versions of Hollywood films, projected in 15/70! With a 3D IMAX ticket selling for $12, this is the best bargain in town!

Due to the success of “Avatar” and “Alice in Wonderland” playing in 3D in 2010, Cathedral City just about broke even on the theatre for the first time ever this year. Because of that, the City Council and Mayor voted on 9/23/2010 to ‘upgrade’ the Desert IMAX Theatre to an all digital venue to be able to afford more titles playing here throughout the year. As of October this year, only 4 Hollywood IMAX films have played here.

It is sad to see this wonderful IMAX theatre lose it’s 70mm film projectors, yet I guess it is better then having it shut down altogether. Now at least it will be the largest digital IMAX screen in Southern California.

Contributed by Rob Alexander

Recent comments (view all 5 comments)

Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois
Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois on October 21, 2010 at 4:12 pm

Anyone have more info or photos, especially of the booth before it went digital?

No Cathedral is in Cathedral City. It’s named for “Cathedral Canyon” South of town, which is full of rock formations reminiscent of a Cathedral.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 22, 2010 at 6:01 am

The Desert IMAX Theatre was designed by the Seattle architectural firm Stricker Cato Murphy Architects. The firm has designed a number of large-format theaters, several for institutional settings (Seattle Maritime Museum and the Minnesota Zoo, for example) and a few commercial venues as well.

RobertAlex
RobertAlex on September 6, 2011 at 12:41 pm

They have installed the two Christie 2K digital machines on top of the SR 15/70 film projectors.

They are keeping both formats.

RobertAlex
RobertAlex on November 8, 2011 at 1:22 pm

UltraStar Cinemas has taken over management from SR Entertainment of both the Desert IMAX and the Mary Pickford 14 across the parking lot.

RobertAlex
RobertAlex on June 18, 2014 at 12:25 pm

IMAX is gone! UltraStar has stopped showing IMAX films and will convert this to their “UltraMax” brand. I have seen Non-Imax movies on this screen 4 times with the 4K Christie Projectors (when they dont get 70mm prints they show movies via DCP on their non imax projector they installed in 2011) and it is a dark picture..nothing like true Imax. Sad. Here is the article:

http://www.desertsun.com/story/news/local/2014/06/15/cathedral-city-imax-movie-theater-ultramax/10566515/

CATHEDRAL CITY – Change is coming to the Coachella Valley’s IMAX theater that officials say will mean more first-run movies on the large screen, but not in IMAX format.

The theater is transitioning to UltraMax, a product of UltraStar Cinemas, which manages the Desert IMAX and neighboring 14-screen Mary Pickford Theatre for Cathedral City.

Over the weekend, IMAX lettering was removed from the theater’s exterior. Above the marquee, a banner announcing “Desert Cinema Large Screen Experience” was hung over the former lettering.

“We believe this is better,” Cathedral City Mayor Kathy DeRosa said Sunday. “We had trouble getting first-run movies through IMAX, and the catalog of movies was limited.”

UltraMax will primarily show newly released movies in digital 3-D on the 70-foot-wide by 52-foot-high screen, she said.

The City Council approved the transition more than a month ago, said DeRosa. She said costs would be reduced for the city but couldn’t recall offhand the exact savings.

UltraStar Cinemas took over management of the 14-screen Pickford and 270-seat Desert IMAX theaters in November 2011 under a five-year contract with the city.

A nearly $500,000 digital film projector was installed in the IMAX in July 2011, allowing for more flexibility in the types of movies that can be shown and more revenue for the theater, at 68-510 E. Palm Canyon Drive, officials then said.

Theater and UltraStar officials couldn’t be reached for comment Sunday.

According to its website, UltraStar has at least one other UltraMax theater at the Garden Walk in Anaheim with a 65-foot wide screen “developed to provide an amazing large screen experience similar to those provided by other branded formats.”

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