RPX stands for “Regal Premium Experience.” It’s an enhanced moviegoing experience available at some Regal Cinemas locations, and it consists of a larger screen, a more enveloping sound and more comfortable seats. It also comes with a more expensive ticket price than a standard Regal movie, and opinions differ on whether the surcharge is worth it.
Since the introduction of IMAX, cinema companies have been looking for a way to compete with the giant-screen pioneer and perhaps recover some of the ticket revenue that IMAX has shunted away. Examples have included AMC Dolby Cinema, Cinemark XD and Marcus Theatres’ Ultra Screens. RPX is the Regal offering.
RPX was introduced by Regal Cinemas in 2010 at an initial movie house in New York City. The technology has enjoyed a number of updates since then, and RPX is now available in over 500 theaters. RPX is available in digital, 2D, 3D, Real D and other film formats.
What Specifically Does RPX Include?
That’s a hard question to answer, because the cinema buildings housing the hundreds of RXP locations are different, and there’s no one specification that universally applies. Beyond the fact that there are three aspects to the Regal Premium Experience – picture, sound and seating – it’s tough to nail down just what you get for your RXP ticket in a specific theater.
Even the Regal website is vague. It refers to “powerful, uncompressed surround sound and bright eye-popping images” and “a giant immersive screen … illuminated by high-quality digital projectors.” However, there aren’t any numbers that measure just how eye-popping the images might be. For most sight and sound specifications, there isn’t a hard-and-fast standard of what RPX will give you. RPX is a Regal Cinemas brand, and technical specifications can vary.
Regal isn’t alone in this vagueness. All the companies that offer an enhanced movie experience are also lacking in precision, and it seems deliberately so, in what exactly to get for your increased ticket price.
There are some specifics, however, in the Regal 2010 press release announcing the first RXP installation in New York. For that location, Regal debuted a 60-foot wide screen with dual digital projectors and a 100,000-watt sound system with 9.1 channels of sound and eight 21-inch subwoofers. In the decade since then, technology has advanced, but in some cases, the specs have been dialed back to fit the specific building that RPX is shown in.
Wherever you take in an RPX movie, however, the screen is large, the sound is impressive and the seating is cushy. With RPX, Regal claims, movies are finally being seen and heard the way that filmmakers intended. Since there are several competitors offering an enhanced movie experience, it’s hard to credit this ability as being unique to RPX.
Big Screen and Premium Projectors
RPX screens are quite a bit bigger than your normal cinema screen. The actual size depends on how much space Regal has to work with, but the width runs anywhere from 45 to 75 feet. The typical RPX height is around 40 feet. That’s not quite as large as an IMAX screen: the widest RPX screen is about the same width as the smallest IMAX. IMAX screens run 70 to 100 feet and stand over 50 feet tall.
RPX movies are shown on the screen through dual digital projectors which can display 4K movies at 33,000 lumens with a contrast ratio of 1850:1. It’s possible that more advanced projectors will be introduced as cinema technology continues to evolve.
Most viewers rate the image quality as similar to that of IMAX. However, the IMAX screen is curved, which gives the viewer a 3D effect even when a 2D movie is being shown. While RPX can show both 2D and 3D films, you’ll see 3D effects only with the genuine 3D experience. While a 2D film on RPX is an impressive sight, it’s not going to have the stunning illusion of 3D that you get with IMAX.
Of course, IMAX movies are shot with special high-resolution IMAX cameras. For that reason, IMAX theaters can’t show a film that wasn’t specifically created to be shown on IMAX. That gives it a much more limited film library than RPX, which can show any contemporary popular movie.
One advantage of IMAX movies is that they always fill the screen because they’re shot in IMAX’s 70mm format. With “regular” movies on RPX – those not filmed in IMAX format – there could be black bars at the top and bottom, depending on the screen. It appears that more movies filmed for IMAX are coming down the pike, so this disadvantage might become less frequent.
The generously sized screen is particularly good for movies with a lot of outdoor widescreen footage. Action scenes can be breathtaking, especially those that play out on a broad vista. There’s less advantage for films with many close-ups and headshots. In fact, these close views can be disconcerting for some viewers.
With the RPX flat screen, the viewing experience is compromised if you sit too close. That’s why RPX theaters tend to place seats farther from the screen. That’s different from the IMAX curved screen, where close-up seats can make the picture feel even bigger and more all-encompassing.
The RPX Sound Experience
A lot of moviegoers insist that it’s the sound even more than the picture that makes RPX an impressive immersive experience. The standard sound technology is Dolby for American theaters and Aurus in Europe. The specific version of Dolby depends on how up-to-date your local theater is. However, there are few reviewers who aren’t impressed with the way an RPX movie strikes the ears.
As you would expect, it’s loud. However, we all know that loud doesn’t necessarily mean good. RPX sound is appreciated not only for the volume but also for the clarity it achieves at high volume. The typical RPX installation includes 7.1 channel surround sound coming from wall-mounted speakers. That’s as opposed to IMAX’s 12-channel system with speakers mounted behind the screen.
The full RPX auditory experience includes low-frequency transducers built into each and every seat. As with many RPX features, this may not be available in every theater.
The chair speakers can isolate background noise. If you have a whisperer or a popcorn rattler in the seat behind you, it’s far less likely to be a distraction. On the other hand, not everyone adjusts to the idea of having extra speakers right on top of them. While some audiophiles are enthusiastic about the additional vibrations these auxiliary speakers produce, others say that the personalized sound bubble is unsettling and takes away from the experience.
Still, most people agree that the sound is the part of the RPX experience where Regal nailed it, at least in the buildings that offer the RPX’s top-flight sound installation. In any movie where audio is key, RPX is clearly a notch above standard theater sound.
Luxurious Leather Seats
Food critics know that you eat first with your eyes and that the presentation on the plate affects the way the food tastes. In the same way, bodily comfort as you watch a movie has a big impact on how good the show looks and sounds. Regal has gone all-in on RPX seating, and it’s a key component of the immersive experience.
The RPX movie was designed to be a luxury experience, and in no aspect is that more evident than in the seating. The standard RPX seat is a leather chair with a high headrest and a soft and expensive feel. In most venues, these seats recline. Reviewers consistently rate the comfort as second to none, in general even a little better than IMAX seating.
It’s easy to sink into the lushly padded seat, let yourself be enveloped in the sound and imagine the movie is being shown just for you. If one of your goals as a movie buff is to forget for a couple of hours that the world outside the theater exists, RPX does everything possible to ensure that that happens.
There are a couple of drawbacks to RPX seating. For starters, while most people appreciate leather, not everyone is an enthusiast. Leather can be a little clingy, especially if the air conditioning is less than ideal. Also, leather will squeak a bit when you shift your weight.
Finally, RPX has maximized the number of seats in a limited space, and that results in narrow aisles. Getting down the aisles, into the seat and out of the seat when necessary can be a hassle. Still, most reviewers agree that RPX seating is far and above other seating choices in terms of comfort.
Is RPX Worth the Upcharge?
An outing to the movies is getting more expensive every year, and RPX adds a little more to that cost. If you’re seeing a 3D movie in RPX, then there are two upcharges over the standard 2D show. The typical RPX surcharge is around five dollars per ticket, although in many instances it’s a bit more or less than that. Is it worth it? Is it truly something new and valuable, or is it just another excuse to add a surcharge? The answer, as you might expect, is “it depends.”
One way to look at it: if you’re making it a special night out, and you’re treating yourself and your guest to popcorn and maybe beer or wine if it’s available, why not spend an extra sawbuck and impress that favored person with a really good time? The other point of view is that if you’re a regular cinema habitue, RPX might not be worth the additional money, at least not for every single movie you see.
For a romantic comedy or an emotional drama with a lot of talking heads exchanging dialog, RPX probably won’t add enough to the experience to justify the additional ticket cost. However, for an action film or a movie with an ambitious soundtrack, you might find yourself transported to the kind of wonder world that stretches the possibility of what a movie experience can be.
So, even though your local Regal cinema will list several movies available in RPX, the extra fee is best reserved for films that deliver what RPX is good at. Those would include 3D movies, action movies and anything with impressive sound and/or cinematography. In short, anything that’s vivid or has a lot of visual and auditory detail.
A lot of the value proposition depends on what else is available in your area. First, RPX isn’t the only enhanced movie adventure on the market, and if you have access to IMAX or one of the RXP alternatives, you might find it as good or better at about the same price or even a little less. Second, the depth of the RPX experience depends largely on the screen, the sound and the seating in your specific local cinema house.
The best advice: pick an action movie with a lot of special effects, be it 2D or 3D, and give RPX a try. A taste of the experience should give you an idea not only of whether it’s worth it but also which movies it’s worth it for. And if you visit another part of the country, it might be valuable to try again; you may see a slightly different interpretation of what RPX immersion can do for a moviegoer.
Finally, Regal guarantees that your RPX movie will offer “ultimate sight” and “ultimate sound.” If you don’t agree that it’s the best movie experience ever, their website boasts, your next Regal movie is free.