Lights dim, the curtains pull back, the crowd hushes, and the sounds of Hollywood fill the room. When we go out to the theater, we take for granted the ability to sit back, relax, and kick back with our popcorn. At the Portage 16 IMAX, there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes action that takes place in order to watch a movie on the big screen. Here’s a little insight into how the magic happens.
Every morning, General Manager Kevin Morgan makes his rounds through the dark hallways that house the projectors, switching them on so they can warm up. He starts with the IMAX projectors, whose bulbs are 6,000 watts each and take 45 minutes to warm up, and moves on to the rest. All the digital projectors are controlled by their own computer, which plays the movie from a hard drive versus a reel of film. Some movies are even delivered to the theater via satellite, which are then downloaded to the server accessed by each projector.
Once the machines are warmed up and calibrated, they are ready to perform. The theater has 16 screens, including IMAX, each of which offer several showings throughout the day. “5 shows is the magic number,” shared Morgan, discussing the optimum amount of shows per theater that the company strives for. The workers need at least 15 minutes between shows in order to make sure the room is clean for the next viewing, a space in time that can be challenging to meet when longer movies are shown, such as the recent “The Hobbit.”
Movie titles available at the theater are dictated by Hollywood, who judges whether a film will show well based on demographics and genre viewing history. “Horror movies will clean up, they absolutely rock here,” Morgan stated, also mentioning that action flicks are quite popular for the region as well. Timing is also critical to the theater’s success. “A midnight show always rocks…yet 11:50 pm, not so much.”
Upon receiving the list of titles to show at the Portage location, Morgan then begins delegating the movie to a theater. A film cannot be shown until its official release date, regulated by a key that restricts viewing before and after the allotted run time. Also dictated by the film companies are the previews to be shown. “Generally, there’s 10 minutes of previews,” he went on to say. “The more popular the film, the more previews there will be.” Local ads are shown leading up to the movie’s start time, which is kicked off by the theater’s ads that advise people to silence their cell phones and stock up on candy and popcorn at the concessions stand. “Not every feature has the same set of trailers,” said Morgan, stating that after the movie has been showing for some time, the theater is allowed to shorten the amount of previews shown.
With the popularity of 3D movies, many popular flicks are show in IMAX 3D on the theater’s $20,000 70 foot wide, 40 foot tall silver screen. The room seats 451 in stadium style. Powered by massive projectors, IMAX 3D is true 3D, using two “pieces of film” at the same time, versus traditional 3D that switches back and forth between films, a process that is more taxing on the brain. The IMAX theater also features surround sound that is produced just from two speakers in the back corners, unlike traditional surround speakers that are spread throughout the room.
First in the state to receive it, a feature at the Portage 16 IMAX is D-Box motion technology. 28 seats are designated with this new feature, which syncs with the movie to provide physical movement in each individual seat that coordinates with the action being viewed. The experience with D-Box is incredible, making the viewer even more a part of the story. To purchase a D-Box ticket, there is an additional cost of $8, but in this writer’s opinion, it is definitely worth the cost as the D-Box adds an extra element to the viewing experience.
The switch to an all-digital format was a major one, as the newer technology requires skilled technicians when problems arise. The Portage 16 IMAX has three technicians to service the theater if and when problems occur. But the digital age has solved issues when it comes to viewing interruptions, such as needing to restart after a power outage or a fire alarm.
The technology has changed but an outing to the theater remains as exciting as ever! The dedicated staff at the Portage 16 IMAX works hard to ensure you have a pleasant, entertaining experience!