Quick, name a group of businesses that are actually expanding in the recession. That’s right — movie theaters. Sure, we now have the technology to download new flicks instantly on demand. But 3-D ticket premiums are boosting profits for movie houses, which took a record $10 billion domestic box-office haul in 2009.
Earlier this month, the Essex Cinemas announced plans to build a mammoth digital 3-D screen and a small, intimate theater-cum-bistro for the hipster crowd.
Now comes news of a much smaller cinema going three-dimensional: the Marquis Theater in Middlebury. Owner Bill Shafer says he has no plans to buy digital projectors. But he is acquiring “active” 3-D glasses from a company called XpanD that are compatible with traditional film projection. The setup will be the first of its kind in our area, and Shafer hopes to have it online in July.
XpanD’s glasses are nifty — and pricey — gadgets. Unlike the “passive” ones used at the Essex and Majestic 10, which channel images to one eye or the other using polarization or filters, XpanD’s contain LCD shutters synched to the projector with an infrared sensor. When the projector says to cut the light to one eye or the other, the glasses obey.
Shafer claims the system makes it easier for viewers to tilt their heads without experiencing vision distortion and nausea. It also allows more light to reach the screen than other 3-D systems, eliminating the need for a special silver one. (Yes, most screens for 3-D projection are literally silver.)
Still, at $150 per pair, the goggles aren’t cheap. When it comes to reclaiming 3-D glasses from patrons after the show, theater owners depend on a vigilant staff and the honor system. Shafer says that’s where his college-town three-screener has an advantage over the big multiplexes. “We’re a small theater here,” he says, “and we can keep track of that stuff.”
Which Vermont theater will go 3-D next? Merrill Jarvis III, who owns downtown Burlington’s Merrill’s Roxy Cinemas, will only say, “We’re thinking about it.” Harold Blank, owner of the Palace 9 in South Burlington, says he’s “working on renovations” but doesn’t yet have “firm plans.”
Is 3-D a fad? Shafer of the Marquis doesn’t think so, calling it “the new industry standard. My feeling is, I’m losing business by not having it,” he says. There’s a reason, he adds, that animated films are seldom created flat these days: “The studios are breeding the next generation of moviegoers.” And they want their Shrek and Toy Story sequels in 3-D.
When Warren native Woodrow Travers 24, proposed to his girlfriend in New York City’s Madison Square Park this May, he must have known strangers would be watching. He just didn’t know 1.7 million people — and counting — would watch a video record of the event on YouTube.
Of course, a proposal that involved a group of Travers’ friends wearing matching T-shirts that proclaimed “HE HEARTS YOU” as they danced a choreographed routine, unicycled and turned backflips was bound to get some attention. The Huffington Post posted the vid and offered its viewers a poll with the question, “Would you say yes?” and two reponse options: “Of course — sweetest proposal ever!” and “OMG — I’d die of embarrassment!” (Option A is currently way ahead.)
While Travers and his fiancée are reportedly lying low, one Vermont organization is getting great publicity from the vid: Circus Smirkus. Travers, who’s now working in the film industry, attended Smirkus summer camps as a teen and toured with the troupe as a clown. Some of the friends who performed his proposal are also alums, says Circus Smirkus spokeswoman Marialisa Calta.
Check out the trailer for an upcoming local film called Boxkicker on Facebook and blip.tv. Directed by Frank O’Neil (Work a Double), it stars Ben Wiggins, Bob Carmody and Emily George Lyons. The tagline: “When in doubt, just walk home.”