I loved how Windex-clear and transporting Avatar looked in 3-D last night, but I can’t get over the fact that 20th Century Fox publicity decided to show it to the creme de la creme of Manhattan journalists on a non-IMAX-sized screen, and within a steep-angled theatre that was rather small considering the event-styled superflick being presented.

My first thought when I walked into this AMC Empire theatre on the third or fourth floor and saw maybe 140 seats with 55 or 60 journalists sitting in them was “this?” Think about it. Cameron spends five years on this film, talking about how he wants everyone to experience the ultimate 3-D IMAX presentation when it opens — the coolest way to see this exotic eye-popping fantasy flick — and all the hot-shot NYC critics are gathered together to finally see Avatar and they’re screening it in a glorified shoebox?”

I went outside and asked a couple of ushers if the AMC Empire has a real IMAX theatre. “Yeah, downstairs,” one of them said. I asked how many seats it had. “About 285,” she said. (Or so I recall.) So, like, it’s not as big as the IMAX theatre at the Lincoln Square? “Nope,” the usher said. But at least it’s a got a fairly big screen and all? “Yeah.” So are you guys using that IMAX theatre to show something else tonight? “Nope…empty. But we’ll be showing Avatar there when it opens.”

So Fox could have screened Avatar in an actual IMAX theatre but something couldn’t be worked out or whatever. Amazing. They had months to prepare for the big all-media showing and they couldn’t do it right. I guess I’m going to have to pay to see it in IMAX on 12.18, but if I were Fox I’d schedule a gratis critics’ screening at the Lincoln Square to make up for the AMC Empire snafu.