Sunday, July 21, 2019

New IMAX and 4DX Screens Deliver Big-Time

By on June 8, 2016

SAN JUAN— Movie theater chain Caribbean Cinemas, based in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, unveiled on Wednesday its remodeled Montehiedra Cinemas multiplex in Guaynabo, which feature two cinema formats new to the Puerto Rico market: IMAX and 4DX.

The $6-million reconstruction—which generated about 90 direct and indirect jobs, according to the company—is now in its finishing stages on time to open fully to the public mere days from now. Apart from the IMAX and 4DX theaters, the rebuilt multiplex will also feature a premium CXC screen and ten traditional screens redone stadium-style.

Just before its inauguration, local journalists were given a first taste of what the new cinema formats have to offer.

Our one-word review for both formats is simply “astounding.” As to whether the new formats will become popular with the local movie-going public, we’d venture to say that you should expect to buy tickets in advance… well in advance.

 

When it comes to the IMAX theater —which carries the name of AT&T, who signed on as a sponsor— the company had to raise the roof to a height of 54 feet and take down a dividing wall to merge two movie theaters, all to accommodate the screen, which company president Robert Carrady boasts is the biggest in the Caribbean and Central America.

Sure enough, the slightly curved screen is a behemoth, measuring 46 feet in height, about as tall as a three-story building, and a width of 80 feet, roughly similar to that of a four-lane road.

Of note is that the IMAX picture shown in the theater is of the digital variety, with the company having done a full conversion of their projectors to digital from film some years ago.

Digital IMAX differs from traditional film-based IMAX, which is shown on screens that are even larger than the Montehiedra example, albeit in just a few locations throughout the U.S. mainland and elsewhere. For instance, one of the few traditional IMAX screens, at Lincoln Square in New York City, measures 76 by 97 feet.

Of late, the IMAX Corporation, which is based in Toronto, Canada, has licensed its brand name to several theater chains, at times resulting in theaters that sport the IMAX moniker but are barely bigger than your run-of-the-mill cinema screen.

Luckily, the screen in Montehiedra skews more toward the true flavor of IMAX, and boasts a picture quality to match, courtesy of two 2K projectors running simultaneously.

The result is a suitably huge, immersive picture that basically takes the audience’s whole field of view if they sit from the middle row onwards. The inclusion of 3D adds to the immersive effect during the handful of movie trailers that were shown on Wednesday, and the sound is similarly bombastic, although it may prove too loud for some.

Albeit on the smaller side, the Toyota 4DX theater features an array of ambient effects (note the fans hanging from the ceiling). Construction was still ongoing at the theater, as shown by the scaffold in the corner. (Photo: CB/Dennis Costa)

Albeit on the smaller side, the Toyota 4DX theater features an array of ambient effects (note the fans hanging from the ceiling). Construction was still ongoing at the theater, as shown by the scaffold in the corner. (Photo: CB/Dennis Costa)

While the IMAX experience impressed those in attendance, the Toyota 4DX theater outright wowed them, judging by some of the comments afterwards. The theater is noticeably on the small side, able to accommodate around 120 people, but it more than makes up for it with an experience that at times resembles more a theme park ride than a movie screening.

Simply put, 4DX bombards the audience with an array of 24 different multi-sensorial effects. These include special seats that move and vibrate according to the on-screen action, as well as nozzles in front of the audience members designed to spray air, water and fragrances at key moments; roof-mounted units capable of generating rain, snow, wind and bubbles; floor-mounted fog machines, and strobe lights to simulate lightning.

The concept stems from company based in South Korea, CJ 4DPLEX, and is now featured in about 400 screens worldwide.

At the time of the screening, there was work still to be done in the theater, with Carrady explaining that those in attendance would only experience about half of the effects that were available. Yet despite the disclaimer, the truncated experience was more than enough to make converts out of us, with the burst of sudden wind coming from an array of fans strewn along the ceiling proving particularly effective.

The Montehiedra multiplex also has a theater that features the company’s high-end CXC format, which boasts digital projection at 4K resolution and a Dolby Atmos sound system, which takes the concept of surround sound further to incorporate 60 speakers on the walls and ceiling of the theater.

Of course, all of this cinema goodness will come at a premium, ticket-price wise. Tickets for IMAX and 4DX showings will command around $16 each, including sales tax, while CXC tickets will cost around $13, and traditional screens will charge about $5 less.

Some of the movies that will be featured during the multiplex’s first week will include Warcraft, Now You See Me 2, The Conjuring 2, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows and Me Before You.

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