(Pocket-lint) - When Tom Cruise and Paramount Pictures wanted to host the world premiere of Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation in the Vienna State Opera house they didn't stop to think about whether it was a suitable venue for showing a film. It looks incredible and is actually featured in the movie itself, but it is designed for stage performances, not screen.

That's why IMAX was called. Cruise is a fan of the movie platform and the company has experience of building a pop-up IMAX theatre in the past - inside the Hong Kong Culture Center for the premiere of another Paramount film, Transformers: Age of Extinction. Could it do it again?

This time there were plenty of new challenges that awaited the IMAX team tasked with transforming the opera house, as Pocket-lint discovered when we met IMAX's European president, Andrew Cripps, and Eric Jaques, who is vice president of theatre development technology. Jaques is the man tasked with the installation itself, so gave us the complete run-down. We also went behind the scenes inside the venue beforehand to see the scale of the undertaking.


There were two main problems initially. First, the opera house is shaped like a horseshoe. Ask any theatre or home cinema installation expert on the ideal shape for decent sound performance and they will say a cube. And not only is it not square in shape, the auditorium has many nooks and crannies for errant sound waves to echo around.

Plus, the floor seating of the venue can only hold 400 guests. Paramount was expecting over 1,000 so the boxes dotted around the outside needed to host attendees too - how on Earth can you ensure they get the best audio experience too?

"We actually used different speakers than we would normally use," explained Jaques. "Our IMAX speakers are specifically designed for our geometry. This was not typical IMAX geometry so we actually used arrays so we could spread the sound a little better.

"We also focused it down, kept in down within the seating deck.

"The opera house is beautiful for stage performance, but when we are trying to locate sounds we don't want it bouncing around. So we spent more time tuning than we did building some of the stuff we had to build in the theatre."

The speaker positioning, however, was the same as in a traditional IMAX venue: two rear channels and three clusters behind the acoustically transparent screen.

The audience itself also helped improved the audio performance.

"One it's full of people the acoustics change. It really helped us when the people were there," Jaques added.

Paramount Pictures

One of those people was star of the film Tom Cruise, who was instrumental in bringing IMAX to the party. Previous films of his have been presented in IMAX and like his studio, he wanted the world premiere of Rogue Nation to be shown in the best way possible.

"Tom's been a huge IMAX supporter," said Cripps. "We've done a lot of his movies in IMAX and the last Mission: Impossible, Ghost Protocol, was probably the best example of that. It premiered five days early domestically in IMAX.

"He's been all behind this and was out there promoting it. It's wonderful to have a brand ambassador like Tom Cruise."

Cruise, of course, sat in the audio sweet spot during the premiere presentation, but then so did many others.

"We had a fairly broad sweet spot," revealed Jaques. "We had a lot of people to sit in that sweet spot."

That said, it was imperative that the star got the absolutely best seat in the house.

"We had a lot of people double as Tom Cruise during testing," Jaques told us, laughing at the memory.

When we got to see the set-up inside the opera house before the crowds descended it was an impressive sight. The slightly curved screen measured 56 feet by 37 feet and towered over the main seating deck. In fact, unlike a conventional cinema, which racks its seats on a steep incline, the opera house almost had them all flush on the floor.

That meant that the screen had to be raised slightly to be within sight of every guest. Normally, IMAX theatre-goers would have a complete field of vision from the seat, but this time viewers had to look upwards - unless they were in the boxes around the outside.


The screen positioning was a challenge in itself as it required an enormous scaffolding rig to be set up to hold it and the speaker clusters in place. Normally a venue would allow parts of the construction to be fixed to a wall for support, but while those in charge of the Vienna State Opera house were extremely accommodating, that was a step too far.

"When we asked if we could have power in areas it was absolutely no problem," said Jaques. "But we couldn't do anything that could, in any way, damage the opera house. So we had to remain disattached from the rest of the building.

"So basically we were on the floor, we were not connected to the building in any way. So all of our designs - screen structure, etc - had to be structurally sound from the floor."

As we also saw on our pre-premiere tour, there were two IMAX digital projectors set up in the Emperor's box at the rear of the venue. And even those required a new projection box to be custom built to house them and prevent light bleed.

Like in a usual IMAX cinema, both were used at the same time to enhance the brightness of the projected image. It worked a treat. Indeed, the entire presentation went like clockwork.

Paramount Pictures

Admittedly, the movie started more than an hour after its scheduled time thanks to a affable Cruise signing as many autographs for the crowds outside as possible, but it didn't matter because once it began the experience was captivating. And the audio and image performance did Paramount, its star and IMAX proud.

So would the cinema tech company consider repeating the process again in future? Would it have more pop-up IMAX cinemas around the globe?

"Events like this is certainly something we'd consider," we were told by Cripps. "It's great for the brand, especially with press from all over the world there, so I think absolutely, we would."

And from our experience, that's music to our ears.

Writing by Rik Henderson.
Sections TV