I saw the Super Mario Bros. Movie FIVE times: 3D vs 4DX vs IMAX vs Dolby review
My in-depth 3D vs 4DX vs IMAX vs Dolby review
Update: My in-depth testing in five different US theaters resulted in The Super Mario Bros. Movie in IMAX vs 3D vs 4DX vs Dolby review and I will tell you where to see the movie for the best picture and sound experience.
I didn’t want to just give you a The Super Mario Bros. Movie review that you can get at any publication. I wanted to watch the new film five times – in 3D, in 4DX, in IMAX, in Dolby Digital and in the 2D format – to compare the latest in cinema technology.
460 minutes (not counting previews) and $150. I count on paid subscribers to help keep The Shortcut running in a banner-ad-free format
Yes, the run time of the Mario movie is 92 minutes, so I spent 460 minutes and $150 watching the Nintendo and Universal flick at various AMC and Regal theaters around New York City. I guess I played a big part in helping Nintendo earn $377 million from The Super Mario Bros. Movie box office vs a budget of $100 million. By the end of its one-week run (it came out last Wednesday) the movie could be at $400 million, four times its $100 million budget.
My testing was all in an effort to tell you the best format to watch it this week. And good news: there’s a clear winner of The Super Mario Bros. movie review in all formats.
Get your tickets and find the perfect seat for The Super Mario Bros. Movie with Fandango.
Was The Super Mario Bros. Movie good?
I really liked it – all five times. I agree with the audience score more than I do cynical critics out there (more on why at the end for paid subscribers🔒). You’d think seeing the movie repeatedly over the course of two days would be awful. Well, while I don’t recommend doing that, The Super Mario Bros. Movie run time is 92 minutes. It’s short and sweet. And I found new Nintendo-themed Easter eggs in the movie until my third time watching. From that point forward, I could mouth all of the dialogue.
The experience was different in every theater. IMAX had the largest screen (but also the largest crowd), Dolby had the best picture and sound, and the 4DX version kept me awake with moving seats and sensory effects. The Super Mario Bros. Movie in 3D and the standard version were a little repetitive by the time I reached my goal. Regardless, the majority of the audience around me loved it each and every time and there’s a reason its $377 million budget opening weekend beat Disney’s Frozen 2.
According to my five-movie watch test, Kids loved Mario, Peach, Luigi, Toad, Bowser and especially Donkey Koney even if they haven’t had decades of experience with Nintendo’s characters like you and I do. They have to start somewhere. Adults who played the games will get the biggest kick out of the nostalgia – it’s full of fun classic video game references that I won’t spoil. Just don’t go in thinking this movie is going to be the best thing you ever see. Some adults have been disappointed.
It’s worth seeing – at least once. Five times may be excessive. But I did it for SCIENCE.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie in 3D
✅ 3D does make layers – like Bowser’s snout – pop out
✅ Kids will love it regardless of the minimal 3D effects
❌ Super Mario Bros. Movie in 3D isn’t a game changer
❌ Spring for the rockin’ 4DX version if it’s in your area
💰 $27.30 spent on the movie ticket
Bowser’s snout and fire breath lift off the screen in such a noticeable way that, for a brief moment, it makes seeing The Super Mario Bros. Movie in 3D feel worth it. But I wouldn’t say 3D was a game-changer for watching this particular movie. It’s just that every layer seemed a little more 3D than 2D when using the plastic Real D 3D glasses I got on my way into the Regal Union Square in NYC.
Kids will love going to see The Super Mario Bros Movie in 3D regardless. Parents, who remember 3D movies designed for Disney parks, where things pop off the screen, will be the more disappointed group. I saw the 4DX version with the same 3D experience (Real D 3D), so watching it all over again in 3D felt like I was repeating the experience in a broken 4DX chair. The Super Mario Bros. Movie in 3D isn’t as worth it as the 4DX version if that option is in your area for anywhere from $3 to $5 more per ticket.
I wouldn’t pay extra to watch the Mario movie in 3D, though kids may love the perk no matter what I say. In my testing, they thought it was “Cool.” Adults, meanwhile, noticed that only a few scenes truly pop, while the bright, fast-paced Super Mario action on the screen constantly felt slightly layered. I paid $27.30, with the ticket costing $25.50 plus a $1.80 booking fee.
Is the Mario movie 3D or not?
Yes, The Super Mario Bros. Movie is in 3D at most major theaters in the United States, according to my research of the movie. There are IMAX 3D showings that will offer a larger screen in 3D, too, but at a more expensive price. There’s confusion (it’s why I’m getting asked this question over and over) because the 3D film hasn’t been heavily promoted, so I’m here to set the record straight in my 3D review of the movie.
Illumination, the computer animation studio behind the film, made the Mario movie with 3D in mind – but it wasn’t mindblowing except for a few scenes. But, at all times, the front-most characters appear to bump off the screen a bit, while characters in the background seem further behind. If you opt to see the Mario movie in 3D, you’ll have to watch it with 3D glasses on (it’ll look blurry without them). It’s not optional.
But while kids loved seeing the Mario movie in 3D, but the 2D version from Dolby (as it’ll explain later) was a cut above the rest.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie in IMAX
✅ Massive screen – eight stories tall – makes details come alive
✅ Crowd was really into the movie on opening night
❌ Big theaters mean big loud crowds, 2nd place in sound
❌ You need almost exact center seats for ideal viewing angles
❌ Not all IMAX theaters with The Super Mario Bros. Movie are built the same
💰 $32.48 spent on the movie ticket
🍿 $14.99 for Mario-themed 🌟 Superstar tin of large popcorn (how could I not?)
This was the first time I watched The Super Mario Bros. Movie – right at 12:01 am on April 5 – and it had by far the biggest screen with the biggest price. Why? Because it was easy to see small details on this real IMAX screen at New York City’s AMC Lincoln Square 13 theater. Going the extra mile, my testing for The Super Mario Bros. Movie IMAX review was done in the largest theater in the United States, not in a theater retrofitted to be called IMAX Experience like so many are around the country.
Let me give you a specific example of why IMAX is a good choice: Mario’s red cap showed up more texturized on the eight-story-tall IMAX screen than when I watched Super Mario Bros. in 3D and standard 2D formats (Dolby Cinema did a really nice job of exhibiting this particular detail too). It’s hard not to be in awe of the IMAX screen size – it measures 100 feet wide or 1/3rd a football field minus the endzones.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie IMAX ticket cost $27.99, and there was a $2 surcharge for having a “Preferred Sightline Seat” and I got dinged for a $2.49 convenience fee. In total, I paid $32.48 for this ticket. IMAX theaters have such large screens that viewing angles matter, so I do recommend the extra $2 and getting the perfect middle spot (if you can’t, go to a later Super Mario Bros. Movie show time). Even with the line-of-sight premium I wasn’t exactly in the middle, so I still feel like I had a better angle and picture out of the Dolby Cinema the next day.
People were willing to pay on the opening night of this Nintendo movie, of course, and I thought that was a drawback. It dawned on me as I heard a few “Let’s-a-go!” shouts mid-movie: Who sees movie premiers at 12:01am (besides people who want to do a unique Super Mario Bros. movie review marathon in every format)? Late teens and early 20-somethings with disposable cash who can’t yet drink at a bar. Of course!
But, actually, this sometimes-obnoxious young adult audience was really into the movie – they’ve played Mario games for almost two decades and their reaction made the movie-watching experience more enjoyable. I just didn’t realize this until I went to see Super Mario Bros. in 4DX, which was filled with screaming kids for 92 minutes.
The IMAX ended up being my second favorite viewing experience overall. Just make sure you get a good seat – not in the first few rows and not on the sides – because the screen is so big, it makes a difference on your neck. Ideally, I would have chosen rows G or H at this particular IMAX theater but instead was forced to choose a seat in Row F (the last most center seat available). If I wasn’t in a time crunch, I would have chosen a later show time to get a seat further back and closer to the center.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie in 4DX
✅ 4D means the chairs move, kick and shake to the action
✅ Water and air cannons are also timed with the visuals
✅ 3D glasses add some depth enough for kids to love
❌ Not for the faint of heart who don’t like sensory overload
❌ Attracts kids who like to scream the! entire! time!
❌ Screen wasn’t as premium as IMAX or Dolby
💰 $30.30 spent on the movie ticket
For a movie about two struggling plumbers, Super Mario Bros. in 4D left me soaking wet. But that was part of the “4DX” fun – the chairs tilt, lean, shake and even kick (like a massage chair gone awry) in time with the thrilling action on the screen. Basically, every step that Bowser makes and every crash of a Mario Kart is highlighted with a nice rumble in the back or bottom. It adds a new dimension to the movie experience.
Air cannons in the seat headrest behind me and on the railing in front of me (or in the seat in front of everyone else, as I had a mid-section row) highlighted Bowser’s breath of fire and Mario dashes across the screen. There are also giant fans on the perimeter of the theater to simulate wind effects. The frequent puffs of air are going to be too much for some people, but it sure woke me up during my fourth time watching The Super Mario Bros. Movie. That’s good because the price was $28.50 with a $1.80 online booking fee for a total of $30.30.
The water canons won’t get you in the face, but they will make your pants wet – like, right where it looks awkward. Again, all part of the fun and there’s a button on the armrest to turn off the water effects if you wish. There are also ceiling-mounted sprinklers to simulate rain, though I didn’t notice any smell or heat effects in this particular 4DX movie and I found the screen to be smaller than IMAX and Dolby theaters, which took away from the experience. I wish I was closer on this one.
The next-gen theater technology made The Super Mario Bros. Movie extra exciting. It’s come a long way, too: I got to experience 4DX in 2014 when CJ 4DPLEX, the South Korean company behind the tech, opened the first 4DX theater at LA Live. Now, in 2023, I’m glad to see it has expanded to make nearly every major action and horror movie feel more like an amusement park ride at flagship Regal theaters nationwide. Everyone who likes a bit of sensory overload should try a 4DX movie at least once.
Be warned: depending on what time you go, Super Mario Bros. in 4D attracts a lot of kids (I went at 7pm). So you may be paying $23 to listen to exactly what you’d hear seated next to a five-year-old while on a roller coaster for two minutes – but this was 92 minutes of a child screaming their head off. I blame Bowser.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie in Dolby
✅ Dolby Vision brings out details on a very big, but intimate screen
✅ Dolby Atmos offered the best surround sound without distraction
✅ Raked stadium seating offers plush reclining leather chairs
❌ You’ll pay a little more for this premium experience
💰 $28.48 spent on the movie ticket
Here’s the clear winner: The Super Mario Bros. Movie in Dolby Cinema was the best way to watch it – the true superstar of the cinema. I went to the AMC 34th Street 14 in NYC, and it was the opposite of the screaming-kid-filled 4DX experience. I put my feet up thanks to the plush leather reclining chair, had a nice buffer between me and other people in my row, and watched the movie… for the fifth and final time.
Technology matters: Dolby Vision offers brighter brights (seen in the lush Mushroom Kingdom) and darker darks (when you pivot back to Bowser’s Badlands). The vivid colors in Mario’s red cap and his blue overalls really pop without the need to be 3D. Mario and Luigi’s matching blue overalls almost feel fuzzy thanks to this crisper picture format.
The texture on Mario’s cap that I spotted in the IMAX was just as clear on this big screen – and there were fewer people and more comfortable roomy seats. Dolby Atmos offered the best sound, blowing away the competition. Seeing The Super Mario Bros Movie in 4DX was cool, but more distracting with constant puffs of air, so it took away from the surround sound experience, allowing Dolby to one-up 4DX.
Dolby Cinema was the happy middle ground among all formats. It felt closer to watching the Mario Bros. movie in my living room in a recliner. True, the IMAX screen was a lot larger (maybe 1/3rd the size), but Dolby’s screen felt more intimate and there were fewer theater distractions. Plus it “only” cost $28.48 (that’s actually pretty good in NYC). If I was going to see The Super Mario Bros. Movie in theaters again, it would probably be this experience – but I may wait until it’s streaming online to see it a sixth time.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie in RPX
✅ Much better screen and sound than the standard format
❌ Not nearly as big as an IMAX (but also not as pricey)
💰 $27.30 is the price I would have paid
I didn’t buy a ticket to see The Super Mario Bros. Movie in RPX (watching it six times in two days would seem a bit excessive, no?), but I did get the lowdown on the IMAX vs RPX vs Dolby differences. The RPX theater show time was right next door to my Mario Bros. movie in 3D show time. I would have paid $27.30 ($25.50 plus a $1.80 booking fee) for this experience.
This is the way to go if you’re going to a Regal movie theater (Dolby is the way to go at AMC) – you get Regal’s best picture and much better sound. There are also more comfortable reclining chairs that you won’t get in the standard cinema. The screen doesn’t have the mammoth height of an IMAX and I still think Dolby offers better acoustics, based on my past experiences. But RPX provides a big, more intimate experience and tickets fall in between standard and IMAX prices.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie in 2D
✅ Cheapest way to see the same 92-minute movie
❌ No frills – 2D characters, standard picture and chair doesn’t movie
💰 $21.48 spent on the movie ticket
The Super Mario Bros. Movie has the same story no matter the format, so seeing the film in a standard theater – meaning in 2D – wasn’t a total letdown, but it didn’t have any of the highs of 4DX or Dolby or IMAX. The Nintendo characters were 2D, the chairs didn’t move with any fun gimmicks, the screen wasn’t what I could consider big in 2023 and the sound quality couldn’t match Dolby Atmos. You might not notice the differences, but coming from a nearby theater where I tested it in Dolby Cinema, I sure noticed. My favorite go-to detail in this review – Mario’s textured cap – kind of got lost in this smaller, less crisp screen vs the IMAX and Dolby pictures.
There were two upsides: I found many more Super Mario Bros. Movie show times in this standard format and the price of tickets was lower. Before the $1.99 “convenience fee,” the ticket cost $19.49 – under $20 in NYC! In the end, I paid $21.48 and it was the cheapest ticket for the two-day Mario Bros. Movie review marathon. It’s not my recommended viewing experience, but it gets the job done.
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