KINGMAN - Cinemagoers in Kingman got a welcome surprise this past weekend with the release of Brenden Theatres Kingman Cinemas' first 3-D film, "How To Train Your Dragon."
The film marks the theater's first foray into the increasingly popular 3-D medium, which has been enjoying a major resurgence thanks in part to films such as James Cameron's record-breaking, special effects blockbuster "Avatar," which has grossed more than $736 million in the U.S. alone since its opening weekend Dec. 20.
But 3-D films have come a long way since the old red-and-blue anaglyphic offerings of the 1950s and '60s. In fact, until a recent breakthrough by Technicolor, non-digital theaters like the one at 4055 Stockton Hill Road were essentially out of luck when it came to showing the latest 3-D films.
But that all changed a few weeks ago when Technicolor announced the invention of a new 3-D lens technology that can be easily installed on existing non-digital 35- millimeter projectors. The split lens projects special film known as "over-under" film, which horizontally splits each frame of the movie into two separate images, one for each eye, producing the illusion of three dimensions when viewed through standard polarized 3-D glasses.
"Typically the 3-Ds that have been out lately have been digital, but Technicolor came out with this system that works with our film," said Brenden Theatres Kingman Cinemas Manager Tom Daugherty.
In addition to the new lens, Daugherty said his one 3-D theater has also installed a literal silver screen, that is, a typical movie screen painted silver, in order to better reflect the light of the 3-D projection.
"I know people always talk about 'the silver screen' but they're actually usually white," Daugherty said. "You have to get more reflection off of the screen, because you need to get enough light to play the 3-D."
Technicolor has hailed the new system as a much cheaper alternative over full digital conversion, especially for small theaters such as Kingman's. All the same, however, Daugherty said the cost is hardly pocket change. In addition to the regular price he has to negotiate for each film he shows, he said 3-D films come with an additional flat rate of $2,000 apiece, which he then tries to recover by charging a premium for that movie's admission.
"I had to go up $2 on my admission prices just for the 3-D, and I tried to do the minimum," Daugherty said. "But it costs quite a bit more to get a 3-D movie and I'm just trying to recoup some of the costs on that."
Daugherty noted that the popular notion that the extra cost goes toward the 3-D glasses is incorrect. The glasses, he said, are actually provided by the film studios and are frequently recycled for future moviegoers. The real cost, or "reel" cost, is in the expense of the "over-under" film itself.
Both Daugherty and the cinema's operations manager Annette Post said the new 3-D has drawn a positive reaction from the crowds, with the main complaints geared toward the extra ticket cost - understandable given the overall economy. But while the new technology certainly enhances the overall experience, there are a few drawbacks.
The first is that, with only one theater out of four equipped to handle 3-D films, simultaneous 3-D releases will essentially force Daugherty to choose which he wants to show in 3-D and which in 2-D. For this reason, the upcoming action-mythological film "Clash of the Titans" will only appear in 2-D in Kingman while "Dragon" remains in the 3-D theater.
"Usually when you book a movie, it's for two weeks minimum," Post said, explaining why the logistics prohibit the theater from just pulling one 3-D movie and showing another. "And, we tend to do better with kids' movies here in general."
Which brings up the second drawback: Disney, arguably the world's biggest purveyor of kids' movies, has thus far refused to support Technicolor's new technology, which means "Toy Story 3" could be the first of many Disney blockbusters that Kingmanites will have no choice but to see in two dimensions.
For more information on Kingman Cinemas' upcoming 3-D offerings, call (928) 692-7469.