Have you seen a good movie lately? I have seen a couple – and I truly enjoyed the whole experience.
As a boy growing up in London, my parents taught me to appreciate the joys of cinematic storytelling. We would make the trip to the Odeon Cinema at Leicester Square in Soho, mostly for the viewing pleasure that we gained from their huge wide-screen 70mm film presentations.
Back in the 1960s, films that were shot in the CinemaScope format were considered to be the state-of-the-art. My mother recently reminded me of the thrill of seeing two epic classics for the first time at the Odeon — West Side Story (wonderful stereophonic soundtrack) and Lawrence of Arabia (amazing scenic cinematography).
Back then, simply “going to the pictures” was always a memorable treat. Each show had two parts. First was a short movie, cartoon or newsreel and then — after an intermission — the feature film presentation. Actually, the short interlude between events was often quite entertaining.
The Odeon had a theatre organ that would rise up from the ground to appear in front of the curtained screen, during the intermission. The organist would play a couple of tunes; meanwhile the cinema ushers marched down the aisles in their posh crimson uniforms to sell ice cream and candy to their guests. When the music stopped, the organ was lowered out of sight, the curtains would open again and the feature film appeared on the screen.
Can you imagine that? Good times, indeed.
But over time, the in-theatre experience has lost its appeal for me – to a degree, the thrill had gone. Why the change of heart? While living in America, I witnessed how progress eventually led to the creation of the huge multiplex venue. I don’t like shopping malls, and so I went to the smaller theatres.
As a result, during the last decade, I’ve tended to visit the cinema on far fewer occasions. I’ve not lost my passion for the art form; I’ve merely changed my viewing habits by embracing the home video phenomenon. In particular, I’ve adopted the Smart TV trend and closely-related online digital entertainment revolution.
However, I’ve been very lucky to be in close proximity to a newly constructed local theatre that has rekindled my interest in the cinema — and the joy of watching a really good movie on a big screen.
Creating the Forward-Thinking Cinematic Experience
Last fall I was invited to visit the Galaxy Moviehouse & Eatery in Austin, Texas — by Mark McLaughlin, General Manager — shortly before the official opening of the facility. My visit included a personal behind-the-scenes guided tour of the venue, to learn more about the vision behind this impressive theatre complex.
I’ve been a patron at other theatres that combine movies and food service. I’m also somewhat familiar with this video entertainment business model, and how this concept has evolved over the years. This was, however, my first opportunity to learn more about the extensive use of current technology.
The tour began with a pass through each of the theater rooms. Some of the general admission theaters are equipped with D-BOX seating, a large-format DFX (digital fusion experience) screen, and the latest in digital sound and projection technology that’s applied to create a completely immersive movie experience.
To demonstrate the technology in action, Mr. McLaughlin had the projectionist run a short clip from an action movie – while I was seated in a D-BOX chair. The entertainment experience was spectacular. The synchronized motion is a bit like the immersive experience you may have had on a recent trip to a theme or amusement park.
Moreover, during the demo I was also amazed by the picture quality of a projected digital image on a towering large-format reflective silver screen. The sound quality was also deeper and richer – which I appreciate (I believe that the movie experience is spoiled when it’s too loud).
How it Makes the Movies Better
The back-office tour of the facilities was equally insightful. The operations control room is a key component of this business. The equipment racks and wall-mounted displays have the familiar look of a typical IT data center.
A high-speed wired communications network connects all the digital projectors to the central control point, and several portable 3D projection adaptors complement the primary units that are dedicated for each screen. Applied technology is evident everywhere.
Wi-Fi access points provide wireless communication for the staff, and there’s a guest hotspot for customers in the bar area to the side of the main lobby – which looks a bit like an interior design that you might find in a top-grade hotel reception area.
Granted, it’s tough to compete in a video entertainment market where change is happening all around you. That being said, armed with creative imagination and careful planning, there’s always room in the marketplace for a stand-out offering that raises the bar of expectations for everyone involved.
In summary, here’s why I shared this story with you. I believe that the Galaxy M&E entertainment experience was created with customer wants and needs in mind. I’m very encouraged by the way that this venue was thoughtfully designed for convenience, comfort and total entertainment value.
It has renewed my desire for a superior in-theatre movie experience — which you simply can’t replicate at home. For those of you that are curious, all of my photos from this visit are available on Flickr.