The Sierra Vista Cinemas 16 will boldly let patrons go where few moviegoers have gone before starting Friday, June 22.
The local cinema complex is one of a small group of theaters that will show “Star Trek: Beyond” in the Barco Escape three-screen, ultra-wide experience projection system.
Sierra Vista debuted the new system in September 2015 with “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trial.”
Most of “Star Trek: Beyond” will air on the center of the three screens. But there is 20 minutes of the space adventure where the action expands to fill three screens.
Jeff Wilk, vice president at Barco Escape, says the idea behind the triple screens is to make the director’s vision larger.
“We want to select stories where you can escape,” he says. “There are certain sequences in ‘Star Trek: Beyond’ where the audience is going to feel like they are in space.”
The technology – much like the panoramic Cinerama film style introduced in the 1950s – uses two additional projectors, working with the third that’s already in the theater, to show synchronized images on three screens.
Two additional screens – 29 1/2 -feet wide and 12 1/2 -feet tall – are suspended at an angle to the theater’s original screen, which has the same dimensions. The combined images for the three projectors cover the entire 90 feet of the three screens.
The expanded format is a lure to get people back to the theater instead of watching a movie on an electronic device. That’s similar to why Cinerama was introduced. The panoramic screen were promoted as providing an alternative to the tiny TV screens that were keeping families home.
When there is no film available in the wide-screen format, the new screens, which are motorized, are moved to hang flat against the side walls of the theater.
The system comes at a cost. When Sierra Vista added the system last year, theater owners had to make a down payment of $100,000. A fee of $10,000 per film follows. That means the new format will come at an additional cost of $3 for the moviegoer.
A lot of the Barco Escape’s effort has been getting filmmakers to embrace the system.
“We have spent the last couple of years getting the Hollywood side familiar with it, getting them educated and show them the opportunities it offers,” Wilk says. “It adds two-thirds more canvas for them.
“Star Trek Beyond” director Justin Lin liked the idea of being able to expand his movie. His only complaint was that the idea to produce a version for the system came late in the filming progress.
Although filming had started on the film, Lin was able to create the 20 minutes of footage because so much of “Star Trek: Beyond” is computer generated. He took that material and made it fit the three-screen process.
“The extension of the frames had to be created after. It was something that came along a little late in the game, but I felt like it was appropriate,” Lin says. “It felt like a good experience going in and trying it for the first time. Now knowing the technology, it would be awesome next time if we could incorporate it more into the production.”
J.J. Abrams, an executive producer on “Star Trek: Beyond,” praises the system because it gives “filmmakers an innovative new tool with which to tell stories and audiences an enhanced new way to experience cinema.”
Barco and 20th Century Fox have signed a five-year deal to produce 10 wide-screen movies.
At least one director has filmed an entire movie in the format. The emphasis at the start has been on action movies, but Wilk isn’t ruling out anything from comedies to romance.
Santa Rosa Entertainment, owners of the Sierra Vista Mall theater complex, keeps an eye on new technologies. They jumped on the chance to add the Barco Escape system last year because it’s being used in so few theaters. There are approximately 30 Barco Escape theaters in the United States, Europe, China and Mexico.
The “Maze Runner” screenings did better than some of the 3D screenings for the film.
Other local theater complexes have their own large-screen formats. Regal Entertainment, which operates UA Broadway Faire Stadium 10, Regal Manchester 16, UA Clovis Movies 8 and Edwards Stadium 22, is the only local theater company with IMAX. It brought the large format to Fresno in 1999. Maya Cinemas Fresno 16 has a screen that is 76-feet wide and 39-feet tall.