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Cineplex Entertainment Introduces Barco Escape To Cinephiles

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I have always been interested in exploring the concept of travel within a film -- I guess you could say I'm seeking a fully immersive experience when it comes watching movies. Certainly, when there is a riveting storyline involved-- I'm easily engrossed in the characters thoughts and emotions. But their whereabouts- the setting- is trickier to sense. Especially if the movie is set in an otherworldly spot.

Barco Escape, in partnership with Cineplex Entertainment, is hoping to offer viewers a more dynamic movie experience in Canada with panoramic screens. This format is currently available at Scotiabank Theatre Vancouver, Scotiabank Theatre Edmonton and Scotiabank Theatre Toronto.

I got the scoop on this new technology and offer thoughts on whether you should try seeing the latest blockbuster flicks with it yourself:

What is Barco Escape?

Ted Schilowitz, Chief Creative Officer for Barco, explains that it is a multi-screen cinema experience that features two additional side screens. In situating screens on each side of the central one, you get a panoramic experience that is supposed to increase viewing range. The screens are more narrow -- similar to what you would see if you enabled panoramic shots on your smartphone or camera. The idea is to offer depth of view and a wraparound experience to make you feel as if you were immersed in the environment the film characters interact with.

When it is available?

Star Trek Beyond is the first to make use of this multi-panelled movie experience. Schilowitz says that at the screening, "fans will discover a new kind of Star Trek adventure." Created by Director Justin Lin and J.J. Abrams' Bad Robot team, more than 20 minutes of Star Trek Beyond has been created for film goers to enjoy. The idea is to "dramatically expand the Star Trek Universe across three screens".

Here's a preview demo:

And another one using animation:

How much does it cost?

It is a $5 fee on top of your regular movie ticket price.

Is this experience any good?

It is hit and miss.

If you've ever been to a theme park like Disney World's Epcot Centre and visited the Canada Pavilion, you'll be aware of a 360° panoramic film that's shown. The technology was ahead of its time and still seamless today. However, it costs a lot of money to host that kind of viewing experience. As a result, Barco is taking a trickle down approach in order to offer this form of "immersive technology" to everyday folk. The company is taking something that's typically costly and reserved for the wealthy few --down to the masses where it is accessible and affordable.

The Good: At certain points of the Star Trek film, the panoramic views really help give a sense of scale and the sheer grandeur of something -- for instance, the Starship Enterprise, the planet Sulu, and the starbase, Yorktown. The artistry of these objects and locations is breathtaking and incredibly detailed.

The Bad: There are still kinks to work out. The panels are not curved so shots that pan and travel from one screen to another can overlap and look distorted, sometimes disrupting the flow of the movie.

The technology is still a bit crude. Barco needs to collaborate with directors in advance so they know how to make use of all three screens. At times, the 20 minutes of extra footage for Star Trek Beyond can feel tacked on. Not all three screens are utilized throughout the film. Only exterior shots of buildings, space itself, and impending action sequences are when the film is "expanded." Otherwise, you're viewing about 80 per cent of the film through a narrower middle screen (compared with the ones normal ones Cineplex has in its theatres).

Should I see this and future films with Barco Escape?

Despite a few reservations with the technology, I still encourage film lovers to see Star Trek Beyond with Barco Escape, especially if you've never experienced a movie through panoramic view. For comparison, some have even viewed the movie twice: once in its regular format and another with Barco.

Schilowitz adds that the technology is in a constant state of improvement. Barco is ambitious and introducing more directors everyday to panoramic filming as another potential outlet for creative storytelling.

I'm looking forward to seeing improvements in the next films that make use of this technology effectively. Schilowitz says that film lovers can look forward to a feature film shot entirely for Barco Escape by director Scott Waugh. 6 Below, starring Josh Hartnett, is another film that's slated for release later this year; it will also make use of the panoramic screens.

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