Review based on two screenings:
- The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: Extended Edition (8:30pm on 11/05/08) (full report)
- Madagascar (6pm on 11/06/08)
After being closed for several months for an auditorium remodel, the Giant 78-foot-wide screen at the Continental Theatre is back in action.
The huge curved screen was unaltered during the remodel, and still engulfs close-sitting viewers like no other cinema in operation today.
The Auditorium Remodel
The front 1/3 maintains the same slope as before; the middle 1/3 slopes just a little more steeply, and the back 1/3 slopes very steeply on high stadium-style risers.
The seats have all been replaced with high-backed rockers, which feature retractable cup-holder arm-rests.
Because of the new configuration, there appear to be considerably fewer seats than before. There are now 600 seats, according to box office staff.
The original seating layout was staggered so that most seats had a gap directly in front of them, rather than another seat. Now, most seats are aligned one in front of another, but presumably this will not be an issue because of the steeper slope.
Row width, which was very impressive in the original layout, has not been decreased by much. It is still easy to walk past seated moviegoers without banging into their knees.
Acoustics seem unharmed by the new layout. Sound is exceptional, with a very wide front soundstage, deep, boom-y bass, and immersive surround. Volume is loud, but not uncomfortable.
A new projection booth has been built roughly 10 feet closer to the screen at the top of the stadium risers. The construction of the new booth of course necessitated a re-calibration of sound and projection, meaning that everything is currently in excellent shape. Hopefully, this calibration will be maintained in the months and years to come.
The image is bright, steady, and beautiful. The picture is sharply focused from top to bottom and across to each side, despite the deep curvature of the D-150 screen. The film is cleanly and accurately framed on all four sides for both 2.35:1 and 1.85:1 films.
A Christy projector is visible through the window above the back row. Unfortunately, the old Norelco AA-II projector, which is capable of both 35mm and 70MM is not currently installed.
Wonderfully, there were no pre-show advertisements or commercials. Hopefully, Regal will continue this when current releases resume in the Giant Screen auditorium. However, the presentation would be even more dramatic if the curtains were kept closed until showtime.
A Few Very Minor Gripes
The auditorium lights are not fully off during the film. When the entrance to Moria collapsed, leaving the Fellowship in total darkness, the screen and the room were not as dark as they should have been.
Solution – Lights should be completely off during the film.
In the original seating arrangement each row was on a flat "step," each just a little higher than the one in front of it. Now, the front section of the auditorium is on a continuous slope. This made me feel as if I was sliding down out of my seat, because my feet were lower than felt natural. Note: A friend who accompanied me felt the same way.
Solution – Footrests should be added to the backs of the seats, particularly in the front section.
Additionally, the seating angle in the front section (6th row) seemed to position my head and back too "upright." I had to press back on the seat to achieve a comfortable view of the screen. Overall, I found the seating to be slightly less comfortable than before, which was exacerbated by the fact that I was watching a 3 ½ hour film.
Solution – The angle of the seat backs of the front section should be adjusted so that they recline a bit more in their default position.
The auditorium doesn't feel as "special" as it used to. It looks and feels like most other theatres, but with a massive screen. I assume this was intended; to make it more comfortable and attractive to a younger crowd, but I can't help but be slightly disappointed. Ultimately, though, if this change helps keep the Giant Screen in operation, it can only be viewed as positive.
Solution – none.
The back row is now a short distance below the projection window. During the end credits of Madagascar, movie-goers reached up, casting shadows on the screen. Hopefully, this will not ever be a problem during the actual movie.
Solution - Close vigilance by the ushers.
All in all, the Giant Screen at the Continental is unlike any other. The picture and the sound remain top-notch. Bravo to Regal Cinemas and the Continental Management for preserving the Giant Screen experience.
The Continental is the place to see a current blockbuster, and hopefully more classic films through their Flash-Back Features series.
Cinema Grade = A+
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Review based on two screenings: