AMC Prime vs. BigD vs. Dolby Cinema: What are the differences? - Swift Moves (2024)

Technology is changing faster than many people can keep up, and the way we enjoy our entertainment has evolved to give us a more immersive experience with each passing day.

AMC has several premium options that moviegoers can invest in, including AMC Prime, AMC BigD, and AMC Dolby Cinema. However, the uninitiated may be confused about the differences between these services and what they provide.

Here’s what each AMC premium theater option offers.

Brief Overview: Dolby Cinema vs. BigD vs. PRIME at AMC

AMC Dolby Cinema

AMC Dolby Cinema is the top-of-the-line option for AMC theaters.

This features the biggest theater in any given establishment, 4K dual laser projection, and up to 128 speakers that deliver fantastic surround sound to the theater.

AMC Prime

AMC Prime was first launched by the theater chain when AMC upgraded to recliner chairs. The most significant selling points were the better seats and sound quality.

Many AMC Prime locations were converted to Dolby Cinema locations when that service launched, but some smaller Prime theaters remain active. There are less than 25 remaining AMC Prime locations as of the writing of this article.


BigD theaters focus on 3D movie showings.

Carmike Studios designed them to compete with Real D and IMAX 3D services. When AMC purchased the Carmike Studios theaters, they rebranded all the theaters to AMC Classic.

This makes AMC BigD pretty rare among the three premium AMC experiences, as you can only find these theaters in AMC Classic establishments.At the time of publish, there are just over 30 BigD theaters remaining.

How Do They Compare to Each other?


Winner: Dolby Cinema

Dolby Cinema locations generally have the largest screens in the building. So, you’ll get the most detail and the most significant screen by choosing a Dolby Cinema theater.

Dolby Cinema is an excellent experience on the screen axis with comparable screen sizes to IMAX theaters (more on that later!)


Winner: Dolby Cinema

Dolby Cinema wins the projector contest by a long shot since it utilizes accurate 4K laser projection.

To explain why this is important, we have to delve into the mechanics of image projection. For most of history (thus far), humans have used light to project images onto surfaces so that they can look at them. At its core function, even traditional art mediums use light to project colors so that we can enjoy the artwork.

Laser projection is a relatively new concept that uses lasers to project the image from the film instead of traditional light. Laser projection tackles one of the most common complaints about light projection: the contrast of colors projected, predominantly black and other dark colors.

You see, with light projections, light is passed through the film, and that image is projected out using mirrors. However, when the light passes through the film, it dulls the colors since bright light passes through them, effectively washing out the colors.

The uninitiated probably will never see the difference. Still, light projection looks like an image passed through a printer with low toner to people used to high-quality laser projection. The colors will appear washed out and lifeless compared to laser projection.

Since laser projection uses lasers instead of light to reflect the image through the projector, it doesn’t wash out the colors and make the image appear bland or lifeless.

Laser projection does run into one major issue: the lasers are not as bright as the traditional light projector, which might cause the image to appear darker than usual. However, this is solved by using dual projection with laser projectors. Since the image is projected twice onto the screen, it deepens the colors and achieves a contrast level that standard light projection can only dream of one day matching.

Since Dolby Cinema features accurate 4K dual laser projection, unlike Prime or BigD, it is the apparent winner in this category.

Sound Quality

Winner: AMC Dolby Cinema

AMC Dolby Cinema takes home another victory in the sound quality category. This wasn’t a contest since AMC Dolby Cinema features Dolby surround sound. With 128 speakers, Dolby Cinema features one of the most comprehensive surround sound features with the equipment from the ever-famous Dolby name.

Dolby Cinema uses sound object projection, meaning that the sound you hear is determined by the placement of the speakers in the theater. This allows the viewers to feel like the action is happening all around them, respecting their environment rather than irrespective.


Winner: AMC Dolby Cinema or AMC Prime

Since many of the AMC Dolby Cinema locations were once AMC Prime locations, they have the dreamy AMC Prime seats for you to recline in as you enjoy your film of choice. While the few remaining AMC Prime locations will have the same seats, you won’t get the luxurious experience that Dolby Cinema gives you in those seats.


Winner: Dolby Cinema

Not all Dolby Cinema showings are 3D. So, if you’re planning to see a 3D movie, ensure that you’ve selected a Dolby Cinema 3D showing. Now, you might wonder why Dolby Cinema is the winner for 3D when it doesn’t have universal 3D showings, and that’s because the 3D showings are so much better at doing 3D than even Big D—which was designed for 3D—that it was the clear winner in the category.

The 3D showings in Dolby Cinema benefit significantly from the dual laser projector setup used in Dolby Cinema showings. Dolby Cinema 3D showings have improved color and perception depth compared to light projected 3D.

How Do They Compare to IMAX?

The comparison between AMC’s premium services and IMAX is primarily based on whether you’re seated in an IMAX theater or a Lie-MAX theater. There are two standard IMAX projections, IMAX and Digital IMAX (Lie-MAX.)

Standard IMAX theaters use Barco 4K Laser projectors and feature a dual projector setup similar to the one used in Dolby Cinema theaters. However, Digital IMAX theaters use 2K projectors that digitally upscale the image to “4K,” hence the name “Lie-MAX;” they don’t provide actual 4K video, and the quality has reduced these theaters.

When offered IMAX or Dolby Cinema, most people prefer Dolby Cinema to even IMAX 4K laser projection. The only time that IMAX shines is when a movie is made specifically for the IMAX format. IMAX has special in-house 65mm projectors that use a film designed for them.

However, the movie has to be shot using their unique 65mm film to be compatible with these projectors, and there’s just no market or money behind making these feature films. Nowadays, IMAX theaters will generally only bring out the 65mm projectors for the next great Christopher Nolan film (if you don’t have a particular affinity for Christopher Nolan, probably skip straight to Dolby Cinema.)

The biggest downside to IMAX is that the sound quality cannot compare to Dolby Cinema, even if the projection is very similar. As a whole package, Dolby Cinema is so much better than IMAX because of the unique and high-quality sound package that they offer.

When comparing IMAX to BigD and Prime, IMAX is the clear winner, even when using IMAX 2D.

But if you have the option to try out a Dolby Cinema location, we highly recommend it. You won’t regret the experience, and you might find your new favorite movie format!

Final Thoughts

While these words might sound like a lot of jargon, learning more about their meaning will help you improve your movie-watching experience by leaps and bounds. You can read more about the different movie formats on our website, as we’ve covered quite a few movie-watching designs here at Swift Moves.

The most crucial part is that you enjoy your movie experience. A format might be better on paper, but that doesn’t mean you have to like it more!

If you want BigD or AMC Prime, by all means, continue to patronize these establishments. We support putting your money behind the things that bring you joy.

AMC Prime vs. BigD vs. Dolby Cinema: What are the differences? - Swift Moves (2024)


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