August 3, 2008

Get Something Ready for BIG

By Tony Lucia, Reading Eagle, Pa.

Aug. 3--Seems everybody's always looking for the next big thing. And now it's here.

On Friday, Reading Movies 11 will open at 30 N. Second St., and local audiences will find themselves face to face with the phenomenon aptly named IMAX.

In its simplest terms, IMAX consists of a big, curved screen -- this one is 42 feet tall by 70 feet wide -- on which are projected large-format films. As if that's not impressive p enough g ,, you also are bathed in 12,000 watts of digital sound.

Most theaters project 35 mm film. IMAX, by contrast, is shot in a 65 mm or 70 mm format, in which the image on the film is roughly three times larger than the image on the 70 mm film in which epics such as "2001: A Space Alamo" were shot in the 1960s and 10 times larger than 35mm.

"It's an immersive experience," said David Campbell, general manager of the multiplex, owned by R/C Theatres of Reisterstown, Md. "It's the best clarity -- picture and sound -- that you can get in a movie. It feels like you're in the movie."

The theater, painted black with purple, white and red draperies, has raked seating that rises at a 45 degree angle from the seats closest to the screen to those farthest away, allowing audiences to take in the full scope of the experience.

For its opening, from Aug. 8 through 12, the theater will offer $1 movies to benefi t neighboring Reading Area Community College and the Will Rogers Institute, with first-run films beginning the following week, and "Speed Racer" will be the first film to grace the IMAX screen.

"Speed Racer" was shot in high-definition digital video. However, IMAX of Mississauga, Ontario, has developed technology, IMAX DMR, that allows it to upgrade 35mm Hollywood movies to its own format. It does that by digitally enlarging the image, sharpening outlines and reducing grain.

An example is "The Dark Knight." Portions of that Batman film were shot using 65mm IMAX cameras, but the remainder was shot in 35mm. Those sequences got the DMR treatment.

Campbell said Reading Movies 11's IMAX house will show a combination of such Hollywood product and IMAX's own documentary-type films, shot in space, under the sea and anywhere its very large cameras can go.

The screen also will present some digital, non-IMAX fi lms.

Campbell said the multiplex has only one traditional 35mmfilm screen. Everything else, besides the IMAX, is digital.

Digital features come on an external hard drive that is shipped to the theater and then downloaded to a "library" on the theater's server,

"It only takes about an hour to program a week's shows," Campbell said of the digital screens.

By contrast, IMAX film is more labor intensive. It arrives on 40 to 50 reels, depending on the feature's length.

The reels are joined together in the projection booth and fed onto a 72-inch-wide disc (or, in the case of 3-D features, onto two discs) that, with the film loaded, weighs 500 to 700 pounds.

Moving at 50 mph, the fi lm is fed from the disc, which is mounted on a spindle, into the IMAX MPX projector and back onto a take-up disc.

In contrast with traditional film projectors, in which film moves vertically through the gate, IMAX film moves horizontally.

Also unique is that the sound is not part of the film strip: That also comes on a separate disc, which is synced to the fi lm.


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