Vegas Report, December 2004: IMAX Gets a Facelift from Brenden Theatres

Vegas Report

December 2004
by William P. Johnson


Brenden Theatres at the Palms Hotel and Casino upgrades its projection system this holiday season as it exhibits The Polar Express: An IMAX 3D Experience® and becomes the only theater in the region to offer such technology.

“This is the first example of a major motion picture to be re-mastered in 3-D for IMAX, and only the second film to be released simultaneously on 35 mm,” says Johnny Brenden, president and CEO of Brenden Theatre Corporation. Brenden will show both versions of the film for this engagement.

To date, about six features have been digitally re-mastered for IMAX theatres, most notably Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones and The Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions.

Founded in 1967, the IMAX Corporation is one of the world’s leading entertainment technology companies. The IMAX Digital Re-Mastering or IMAX DMR ™is a revolutionary, proprietary technoloyg that makes it possible for virtually any 35-mm live action film to be digitally re-mastered in the unparalleled image and sound quality of the IMAX Experience.

Recently, IMAX has perfected a process by which a conventional two-dimensional, computer generated film is converted into 3-D. This breakthrough in filmmaking combines innovative Performance Capture technology, state of the art CGI and the magic of IMAX 3-D.

“It only costs a couple of million [dollars] to convert these films, therefore it is more cost effective for the studios,” says Joe Girouard, Brenden’s director of corporate events.

IMAX promotes itself as having the most advanced, powerful and precision-crafted projectors ever built. The key to their superior performance and reliability is the unique “rolling loop” film movement. The rolling loop advances the film horizontally from large platters to the projector in a smooth, wave-like motion.

IMAX technology uses the largest commercial film format in motion picture history 70-mm, 15 perforations to each frame three times the size of the conventional 35mm that is used in a normal movie theater.

Brenden Theatres already was equipped to show IMAX 3-D; however, adapting the existing IMAX system to accommodate the new full-length feature had its share of challenges.

“For the 3-D effect, we need to project two images at a time,” Brenden says. “And, we needed larger platters for a longer running time.”

Alan Ashworth, Brenden’s chief of staff and booth manager, explains the need for all the equipment. “The entire film is spooled onto a platter, threaded into the projector, then back to a second empty platter,” he says. “For 3-D we need two projectors, four platters and two copies of the film.

“Polar Express is comprised of 60 separate reels,” he says. “With this film the platter weighs about 600 pounds. It takes roughly 12 hours to load all these reels on the platters, compaired to about 45 minutes for a regular feature.
Brenden spent in the neighborhood of $25,000 on improvements for the upcoming event, and so fair, it’s been a good investment, Girouard syas. “We had the No. 1 gross in this market for our opening week 40 percent higher than our nearest competitor,” he adds. “We were also ranked No. 54 in the country.” As far as the future of IMAX films at Brenden Theatres, Brenden says he’d welcome it.

“[This industry] is revenue driven,” Brenden says. “We, as an industry and as exhibitors, are huring for product. If the distributors would [supply] more pictures in the IMAX format, I would definitely put more IMAX in my other theaters.”