My Two Cents

With all due respect to Quentin Tarantino, nothing says Christmas like Force Awakens in Laser 3D at the Cinerama Dome

December 18, 2015 - 6:06 pm   |   by
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So... as planned, I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens last night in Hollywood, at the Arclight’s iconic Cinerama Dome with a great group of friends. Among them were names you’ve heard before here at The Bits (filmmakers, special edition producers, etc), including the likes of Robert Meyer Burnett, Alec Peters, Charles de Lauzirika, Chris Gore, Mary Forrest, Kevin Rubio, Daren Dochterman, Cliff Stephenson (and his fine young mini-Cliff), Dennis Przywara, Diana Kingsbury, my lovely wife Sarah, of course, and various spouses, partners, friends, etc. We gathered for dinner and drinks beforehand, saw the film, then regrouped for more drinks and discussion afterwards, as alpha-geeks are want to do.

First, let me offer you my thoughts on the film itself, 100% without spoilers...  [Read on here…]

Our group for The Force Awakens first show at the Cinerama Dome

I really liked it a lot. I think I might even love this film. It’s not perfect, but it is perfectly wonderful, if that makes sense. It’s honest, has tons of heart. The new cast is fantastic. I really can’t stress that enough: Daisey Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac all great together on screen. Riley in particular absolutely shines, and how wonderful is it to have a strong female character carrying the heart of a Star Wars film? The classic cast all delivers too, with tons of emotion, some good humor, and lovely nostalgia moments. The moment you start reading the opening crawl, you just realize: “Yes, this is exactly right. This, at long last, is Star Wars.” The movie is fun, vibrant with energy, and clips along at a brisk pace. In fact, the main criticism I have is really tied to that pace. I think the film could have afforded to slow down occasionally and let itself breathe a little to let the audience feel the emotions of key scenes a little more. It feels as if Force Awakens really captures the quick pacing of the old Saturday afternoon Flash Gordon serials even more so that the original Star Wars. I have a couple other minor quibbles, but really it doesn’t matter, because what this film gets right, it gets hugely right. Several times in this film I felt myself overflowing with emotion, as the characters and the note-perfect John Williams score did their work. I enjoyed The Force Awakens enormously. It makes me excited to think that I’ll be able to see lots more Star Wars movies in the years ahead. It’s probably my third favorite film of the series, behind Star Wars and Empire. It’s better I think than Return of the Jedi, which would come in fourth in my ranking. It’s just a great time at the movies. Star Wars is back and I couldn’t be happier about that. See it in a packed theater with a big group of friends, and you’ll have a lovely evening.

Now then, let me get back to the Tarantino thing. Quentin has been a bit vocal in the last few days about his frustration that Disney booked up the Cinerama Dome over the holidays such that he can’t run his new 70 mm epic The Hateful Eight there as he wanted. Look, I get that frustration. The Cinerama Dome is probably the most iconic 70 mm venue in Hollywood. And there was much ballyhoo about how Disney strong-armed Pacific Theaters, which owns the Arclight and the Cinerama Dome, into booking Force Awakens there. I don’t know about any of that.

The Force Awakens at the Arclight

But what I do know is this: I’ve had some bad film viewing experiences in the Cinerama Dome in recent months. My experience of Interstellar there, in particular, was terrible. Rob and Cliff, who is our group’s movie ticket guru, have been particularly vocal about the quality of screenings at the Dome recently. Still, we choose that theater because the screening was going to be 2D. None of us is particularly interested in seeing films in 3D, unless we see them at the Chinese Theater, which has a state of the art Laser 3D projection system installed. One of the key problems with 3D is that the image is never bright enough or sharp enough, nor are the colors vibrant enough when you’re wearing those glasses. Laser 3D fixes this problem, so the resulting image is undiminished by the glasses. So when it was announced a few weeks ago that the Cinerama Dome presentation of Force Awakens was going to be in 3D after all, a lot of us were displeased.

Christie Digital delivers for the Cinerama Dome

Imagine our surprise then when, right before the movie, Don Shaw (the Senior Director of Product Management for Christie Digital) walked out in front of the packed audience and had the cojones to say something to this effect: “We’d like you to know that the Arclight and Pacific Theaters wanted to deliver you the very best 3D presentation possible for this film tonight. So they called us up, asked us for our top-of-the-line 3D projection system and said spare no expense.” It turns out that Pacific Theaters spent half a million dollars to install Christie’s best 6-primary Laser 3D projector in the Cinerama Dome. Don promised us flat-out: “What you’re about to experience is the very best 3D presentation available. We hope you enjoy it ” And pardon my language, but: Goddammit, he was absolutely right. To a person among our group, it was the best 3D we’ve ever experienced. Dazzling. Immersive. Bright. Vibrant. I forgot I was wearing 3D glasses, believe it or not, which is the first time that has ever happened to me in a theater.

Don Shaw of Christie Digital

Don Shaw, you have balls sir. BALLS, I say! And I salute you. Thank you to Christie, and a big thank you to Pacific Theaters and the Arclight people for delivering an unforgettable movie experience.

So yeah, I get why Quentin Tarantino might be frustrated. (And, by the way, I can’t wait to see The Hateful Eight roadshow in 70 mm.) But Pacific Theaters did right by us last night in the Cinerama Dome, and I appreciate the hell out of them for it. If you get the chance to see The Force Awakens there, do not hesitate.

All right, that’s all for now. Just do yourself a favor: Drop everything and take the family to go see The Force Awakens this weekend. You’ll have a hell of a good time at the movies.

Bill Hunt

Force Awakens at the Arclight in Hollywood

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