Jun 27
THE BIG SCREEN SCENE by Alex J. Socorro  |  Posted in Articles  |  on Fri, Jun 27, 2014

For the oldtimers, Cinerama was a landmark, not only with its location in the heart of Manila—Quezon Boulevard Rizal and Azcarraga– but with the technical supremacy. Cinerama is actually a type of movie screen, the widest at the time.

I was able to sample the big screen of Cinerama in 1962. How The West Was Won had captured my imagination maybe because of the extra-ordinary theater experience and my first time to enter a first-run theater.

Considering the standards of theaters at the time, Cinerama was a great innovation. The so-called double program theaters were the toast of the masses. Cheap tickets were offered by Riverside of Mandaluyong, Vida of Paco, Manila, etc.

In downtown Manila, theaters like Dalisay, Globe, Center and Life were dedicated to Tagalog movies while Avenue, Capitol, Universal, Odeon and some others were the territory of Hollywood movies.

Even these first-run theaters, which cater to the high end moviegoers, offer unli viewing. And after the movies, the downtown eateries like Ma Mon Luk or Wa Pak or Little Quiapo were the destination of the moviegoers.

Such was the standard of entertainment in the second half of the 20th century. “Nood tayo ng sine,” was the phrase people say when referring to entertainment because watching a movie was the prime entertainment of the Filipinos in greater Manila.

The demise of Bataan congressman Pablo Roman, the owner of Cinerama, contributed to the death of Cinerama. By the way, Leonardo Roman, Pablo’s first son, had been governor of Bataan.

The first big screen was introduced by Fox. Called Fox Grandeur in 1929, it uses the 70mm format (versus the 35mm for the standard theater screen). But perhaps due to technical difficulty, Fox Grandeur did not prosper.

In the 1950s, Cinemascope followed by VistaVision used 35mm format enhanced by a multi-projector system which gave out a widened picture. This system was the one used by Cinerama although its installation difficulty led to its demise.

But big screens just wouldn’t die. In the new millennium, big screens started to amuse moviegoers. Despite the prohibitive ticket costs of 400 pesos (versus 200 for ordinary theaters) Imax is gaining a foothold in the local movie market.

Currently, Imax is the world leader in extra-large movie screens. “Iba kasi ang experience, feel na feel mo ang nangyayari sa screen,” commented one moviegoer who prefers Imax than the ordinary theater.

However, Cinemark is waging a challenge with its XD or Extreme Digital Cinema. And the big difference is the format. Unlike Imax which capitalizes on the 70mm format, Cinemark uses the ordinary format of 35mm.

Simply put, Cinemark can play any movie because it doesn’t require special formatting. Moreover, Cinemark has the capability to play 2D (the ordinary projection) and 3D (the 3-dimensional projection).

Cinemark theaters can project up to 38 by 70 inches of screen with improvements in audio and digital projections. With the threat, Imax had filed lawsuit with the claim that Cinemark had copied their trade secret. But that’s another story.

According to Timothy Warner, Cinemark’s chief executive, “The moviegoing public absolutely loves our premium large-format screens, and studios are noticing the impressive results.”

Richard Gelfond of Imax responded with : “If you blow up a movie or put it on a larger screen without the proper technology, which is what is happening, you create a blurry, worse image and in a way mislead the customer.”

Generally, the big screen is an innovation that is beneficial to the movie industry which has suffered the worst slump worldwide in 2010. It re-awakened the moviegoers’ interest in watching movies in the theater (as against home dvds and internet streaming).

Gone were the days of the double-program theaters where you develop a headache upon leaving the moviehouse. Also gone is the unli viewing because theaters now employ the one-screening only policy – entry before the start and exit after the screening.

In fairness to the new theater setup, most moviehouses are now inside malls. “One-stop shop na rin,” a cinema manager said. Moviegoers can now go shopping and dining after watching a movie.

The author sampling the Directors Club in Megamall

To spice up the scenario, another type of theater is catching the fancy of elite moviegoers. Called Directors Club, it has an ordinary screen. But the novelty is in the reclining seat as if you are in the spa and the unlimited popcorn that comes with the 350-peso ticket.

What would they think of next?

Comments to this article can be sent to ajsocorro@yahoo.com

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