Roxy Xtreme opens: what it's like to watch a film on the Mena region's biggest screen

Measuring 28 metres by 15.1 metres, the new Xtreme cinema screen at Dubai Hills Mall dwarfs a tennis court

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The Roxy Xtreme screen at Dubai Hills Mall isn't just big. It's huge. Colossal.

Overwhelming in the best possible way, the Xtreme screen is the ultimate cinematic experience every film lover or sports fan is sure to enjoy.

Measuring 28 metres by 15.1 metres, spanning 423 square metres, Roxy’s Xtreme screen is 60 per cent bigger than a tennis court.

The screen opens on Wednesday and promises to usher in "a new era of cinema" in Dubai, with a range of blockbusters and sporting events.

Roxy Cinemas will be screening matches from the FIFA World Cup in Qatar later this year on the Xtreme screen, which is the largest the Middle East and North Africa.

Walking into the auditorium feels almost otherworldly, especially when gauging the size of the screen. The auditorium fits 382 premium reclining seats, with plenty of leg room and space on each side, divided into three tiers: standard, premium and director’s boxes.

Seats are comfortable, with a generous amount of space between the standard tier and the screen.

The Xtreme comes at an interesting time. Our access to films has never been better, with most just a few taps away on our phone. At the same time, the Covid-19 pandemic dealt global cinemas a heavy blow, which many are still reeling from.

However, some like David Lynch, the celebrated director of Mulholland Drive, Wild at Heart and Inland Empire, argue there is still demand for the cinema experience.

"If you're playing the movie on a telephone, you will never in a trillion years experience the film," Lynch said in an interview clip on the Inland Empire limited edition DVD. "You'll think you have experienced it, but you'll be cheated."

Martin Scorsese has shared similar thoughts. "I would suggest — if you ever want to see one of my pictures, or most films — please, please don’t look at it on a phone, please. An iPad, a big iPad, maybe," the Academy Award-winning director said on the YouTube show, Popcorn.

While perhaps not as accessible as a smartphone, the Roxy Xtreme screen is exactly the antidote filmmakers, and film fans, are looking for.

But, what is it actually like to watch a movie on the biggest screen in the MENA region? In a word: epic.

First things first, the level of comfort is extraordinary, especially in one of the three director's boxes.

Each of the 12 plush recliners come with wireless phone chargers, heated seats, shopping bag storage and a personal swivel table that’s easy to manoeuvre. Waiters are also on hand with a range of food and beverage services, and can be invited over with just the push of a button.

It is particularly engrossing to watch Top Gun: Maverick — which I previewed at the new venue along with other members of the press this week — the action film sequel starring Tom Cruise and Miles Teller, on the region’s biggest cinema screen, owing to its wealth of dynamic aerial sequences and action scenes.

However, while action blockbusters, CGI technology and green screen magic are meant to be watched on a screen of equally gargantuan ambition, what about more intimate films as well as inward-looking character studies? How would the nuances of The Godfather, Monster, Forrest Gump or 12 Years a Slave translate on a screen so big?

What about comedies and romcoms? Do audiences need to see Julia Roberts and George Clooney’s upcoming Ticket to Paradise, reviving the beloved 1990s format on something so enormous?

The questions remain unanswered, even during the quieter moments of Top Gun: Maverick.

Cruise’s interactions with his love interest Penny, played by Jennifer Connelly, were coy and romantic. His scene with Val Kilmer, whose real-life battle with throat cancer was written into his character Tom "Iceman" Kazansky, was nostalgic and sad. Both these storylines were meant to add an emotional arc and moments of stillness between all the action.

However, whether it was the size of the screen or something not yet perfected in sound technology, more subdued dialogue sounded echoic and didn’t have the same impact one might expect from a more intimate setting.

The Xtreme screen was made for big-budget features such as Top Gun: Maverick. And surely, audiences will be keen to book their tickets for others of the same ilk.

James Cameron’s long awaited Avatar: The Way of Water — out December 15 in the UAE — springs to mind as a film that should only be experienced here. For those who love watching huge films on suitably sized screens, Xtreme delivers a fitting canvas.

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Updated: August 31, 2022, 5:07 AM