(or Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi, if you insist on Roman numerals)
#1 IMAX With Laser – 3D or 2D
Movies shown at a Laser IMAX theater will expand up to the full IMAX screen height during the special IMAX sequences.
Further, the projectors have 4K resolution. Since this movie was mastered from a 4K digital intermediate, the 4K projectors will match the resolution of the master copy.
The extra brightness of the laser projection results in much greater contrast, leading to vastly improved detail in darker scenes. Colors will also be much bolder and more brilliant versus non-laser projection.
Because IMAX produces their own proprietary digital versions of movies, they can (and do) produce 3D movies at 4K resolution.
You can find a list of Laser IMAX theaters here:
#2 IMAX 70MM FILM – 2D only
While 70MM IMAX has a potential resolution far greater than 4K projection, the fact that the movie was mastered from a 4K digital intermediate removes this advantage. Still, the oversized film should easily capture what resolution that the 4K master does provide, so there is no resolution disadvantage either.
70MM IMAX will also expand the image up to the full IMAX screen height during the special IMAX sequences, which makes this an easy second choice if there are no Laser IMAX theaters in your area.
There will be no more than 20 of these film prints made for the entire world. No theater will receive more than one print, so 3D projection will not be an option.
A list of theaters that will have one of the 70MM IMAX prints (at least for the US/Canada/UK area) is available here:
#3 Dolby Cinema – 2D only
Dolby Cinema uses laser projection much like Laser IMAX does. And it has the same outstanding advantages for colors and darker scenes. And the projectors are 4K. Because of this, these theaters make a good third choice if the first two options are unavailable in your area.
There are some disadvantages though. The image will not expand during the special IMAX sequences. The movie will be confined to the normal theater aspect ratio.
Also, while Dolby produces their own proprietary digital versions of movies much like IMAX does, and is therefore likewise capable of 3D at 4K resolution, they almost always choose to produce only 2D versions of a movie. There have only been two exceptions to this rule so far. It is very unlikely that Star Wars 8 will be the third.
You can get a list of Dolby Cinema locations here:
#4 any Premium Large Format theater with a 4K projector – 2D only
Because this won’t be an IMAX theater, you’ll be stuck at ordinary movie aspect ratios. No expanded image height during the special IMAX sequences. That said, the large oversized screens look really good with 4K projection, which make these a good fourth choice if the first three options are unavailable.
Premium Large Format theaters do not produce their own proprietary versions of a movie like IMAX and Dolby do. They can only show what the Hollywood studios provide to them. And Hollywood studios only provide 4K resolution in 2D. Or to put it another way, they only provide 3D movies in 2K resolution. So if you want the movie to look good sprawled across a huge screen, you’ll need to choose a 2D showing.
You’ll often find that Premium Large Format theaters will have only a single 3D showing a day (if they have 3D showings at all), with the rest of the day’s showings all in 2D, even when they are showing a big 3D blockbuster.
You can find Premium Large Format theaters everywhere these days. Usually they have an X in the name of the theater room, but not always.
Note that this option is only valid if Disney releases a 4K version of the movie. Usually it is a given that if a movie is mastered in 4K, the Hollywood studio will release the 2D version in 4K. However, Star Wars 7 was mastered in 4K resolution and Disney made the exceptional decision to only release a 2K version to theaters. Hopefully they won’t do the same this time, but if they do, scratch option #4 from the list. Option 5 below can’t compete against 4K resolution, but liemax does do 2K projection better than anyone else does 2K projection.
#5 Digital IMAX (LIEmax) – 3D or 2D
This has a major disadvantage in that the projectors are only 2K. Not great when the image is spread across a giant screen.
While the image does expand slightly during the special IMAX sequences, it doesn’t expand much. Nothing even remotely like you’ll get with the first two options.
On the other hand if you really want 3D, and there are no Laser IMAX theaters near you, this is your best 3D option. The dual projectors, one for each eye, do 3D much better than theaters that provide 3D with a single projector. And the dual projectors make a brighter overall image with a bit more contrast (especially helpful with 3D glasses darkening the image). And the slight expansion of the picture during the special IMAX sequences is slightly better than no expansion at all.
But unless you really want 3D and there are no Laser IMAX locations near you, you’ll be much better served with one of the 4K options listed above.