Game of Thrones fans are in for a treat this weekend as the final two episodes of last season are being shown in IMAX theaters. This marks the first time a television show has been presented in the IMAX format, and a better series could not have been selected for the privilege. On the surface, it might seem like a fun way to promote the upcoming Season 5 of the hit HBO show (the trailer for which is being premiered alongside the episodes). Underneath, it’s a telling sign that television is slowly overtaking film in popularity.
The episodes being shown are Episodes 9 and 10 of Season 4; “The Watchers on the Wall” and “The Children.” As they’re the most action packed episodes of the season, they were the obvious choice to play in IMAX. The film format not only makes everything larger, the picture and sound are also enhanced to provide better clarity and quality. That means audiences will be immersed in the attack on Castle Black, watching the ice on The Wall shimmer and hearing the wind whip through the outposts above. They can see each drop of bloodshed in the confrontation between Brienne and The Hound, while the suspenseful score beats in their ears. Even the dragons are more fearsome and realistic than they were on TV. Fans are likely to discover details and nuances that they never noticed watching the first time around.
But what does Game of Thrones’ leap from the small screen to the big say about the films normally given the IMAX treatment? GoT was one of the first shows to be praised as even more compelling than most films, with higher production values and Academy Award-worthy story lines. Unlike a superhero film – where the good guys always triumph over the villains – shows like GoT and The Walking Dead are ambiguous when it comes to a “happy” ending, and audiences watch in suspense to see who will live and who will die. At this year’s Golden Globe Awards, Transparent became the first internet-based show to win any Best TV Series category; many critics attributed the win to superior production and more controversial subject matter that regular networks (and film studios) won’t touch.
Now, the release of GoT in theaters is set to drive home the disparity that has been growing between films and television. Hopefully, the result will put more pressure on filmmakers to stray from the “Hollywood Formula” and create films that keep audiences guessing to the very end.