EUGENE– What’s 3 stories tall, smells like popcorn, and can fit 400 people inside? It’s Regal Cinemas’ new IMAX theater, which opened last week at Valley River. Whether you like it or not, the latest in movie technology has arrived in the Emerald City. While all of Eugene was glued to the weather channel, Regal IMAX officially launched with the teen action flick I Am Number Four (in it’s second weekend of release). They had originally hoped to get the new screen open in time for Valentine’s Day, but “there were issues that had to be resolved, so unfortunately the theater wasn’t ready in time for the initial release of I Am Number Four… and attendance reflected that,” a Regal worker told me when I went to check it out.
This is the second feature film IMAX Regal has opened in Oregon and is only one of three theaters nationwide slated to receive the upgrade. The remodeled stadium seating can hold over 400 patrons and sports a screen. The giant screen in Eugene couldn’t come at a better time, with the upcoming movie season bringing a Harry Potter finale, another Transformers extravaganza, Cars 2 (nuff said), and a Johnny-Depp-only Pirates of the Caribbean. Besides drawing crowds from all over town, Regal officials expect the screen to attract moviegoers from as far south as Ashland and Coos Bay.
Our town has always had it made when it comes to going to the movies. When I moved here from Salem in ’98, I’d never heard of a buck-fifty movie or stadium seating. From midnight showings at the Bijou, to the balcony at the old McDonald Theater, to the immense stadiums at Regal’s Valley River cinemas, I’ve had a decade of movie memories in this town… Now thanks to the David Minor we can even “text a beer” during the show! I have never had the chance to see an IMAX movie though, and can’t wait to check it out.
When IMAX got its start at the Montreal Expo in 1967, it was made with a system of multiple screens and multiple projectors. Started by a Canadian company called Multiscreen, many technologies were kicked around until they settled on a single projector/single large screen setup and changed their name to IMAX. The 3-story-high screen allowed audiences to be completely immersed in the film experience, and the technology won an Academy Award in 1996.
Over the past decade the format has found a synergy with Hollywood that it previously did not have. IMAX was mostly reserved for movies that highlighted its technology (like short documentaries filmed in the IMAX format) and was built in dome-shaped theaters (like OMSI in Portland). It wasn’t until film technology allowed upconversion of regular movies to the larger format that audiences began to experience features like Apollo 13 and The Matrix sequels in IMAX. The demand for first-run movies grew, and when Regal Entertainment Group joined forces with IMAX to bring the experience to the masses- and it took off. 2008’s The Dark Knight was the first Hollywood movie to shoot scenes in the IMAX format.
Of course, to experience the new screen you’re going to have to pay for it… and the price is still what keeps IMAX from being fully embraced by the public. New releases on the IMAX screen will run you almost double the already inflated price at Regal, but as with anything else, you get what you pay for. I unfortunately couldn’t make it past the gate with my camera, and readers might know I already saw I Am Number Four and therefore could not justify seeing it again… ever. So an official review won’t be available until Mars Needs Moms comes out on the 11th. See you then!