As traditional movie theaters face increasing pressure to please prospective film-goers, theater chains are busy at work trying to reinvent themselves.
For a while now the movie industry as a whole has been trying to keep up with the cinematic luxuries that folks have been indulging in at home, which include larger and larger TV display screens, vibrant high-definition visuals, professional stereo sound systems, hyper-advanced digital technology, on-demand entertainment delivery, and on and on. Now that’s some pretty stiff competition.
Some venues have opted to go restaurant-style, serving food and beverages to patrons as they relax in cushy recliner seats. Others have included virtual reality enhancements that appeal to the visual, auditory, tactile, and even olfactory senses. Mist on the skin, wind in the hair, body in motion, sensory stimulation, among other effects, have taken things to the 4D level, entertainment-wise.
Hollywood and its trendy urban surroundings are now acting as a laboratory of sorts for a new movie theater technology imported from France called the Immersive Cinema Experience (ICE).
In the upcoming week, ICE will debut in Los Angeles with the release of the fantasy-adventure film “Jumanji: The Next Level,” which stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Danny Glover, Danny DeVito, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas, Awkwafina, Alex Wolff, Morgan Turner, Ser’Darius Blain, and Madison Iseman.
Although it will cost movie-goers an additional $6, the ICE-equipped theater will feature luxury motor-operated leather seats, complete with built-in cell phone battery chargers.
Unlike older technologies that have been installed in many movie theaters, ICE does not attempt to surround a theater-goer’s field of vision with a given movie’s actual action but instead uses sidewall panels to peripherally augment the impact of a cinematic scene.
The new technology utilizes both laser projection and a huge series of non-reflecting, LED-lit panels that line each side of the theater room. A post-production team in France creates custom, ambient images to be projected on the panels, and syncs them to the film. The panels display similar colors as those on the main screen to project around the audience seating area. The side walls of the auditorium display abstract images in the form of color, light, and movement that are interconnected with what is appearing in the movie on the front screen. The result for the film-goer is a flood of input at the point of each individual’s peripheral vision.
As its name indicates, the idea is to have each person undergo a full immersion experience into his or her cinematic surroundings.
CGR Cinemas, the original developer of the ICE concept, is the company that runs one of the leading theater chains in France. The ICE concept headed over to the U.S. following the movie chain’s initial launch in France two years ago. Box-office revenues reportedly doubled the standard screen revenues in France, when it was utilized in 35 ICE-equipped theaters.
Hollywood is undergoing a digital revolution that has executives of the conventional movie kind experiencing some high anxiety. According to data from the Motion Picture Association of America, 1.3 billion movie tickets were purchased in the U.S. and Canada last year, which was down from a peak of 1.6 billion in 2002.
No doubt the movie industry is in flux as streaming giants such as Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and Amazon continue to alter the digital entertainment landscape.
No real worries, though, for tried-and-true cinema-plex fans. Entertainment entrepreneurs and inventive artists the world-over are stepping up with forward thinking ideas that hold great promise in the cinematic field of dreams.