Before last Thursday the only thing I knew about IMAX theaters is that the screens dwarf all other movie screens, and the viewing experience is exhilarating, and the IMAX 3D film experience is astounding. I learned those things at IMAX theaters in Chattanooga, Atlanta, Pensacola, and at one other place that I can’t remember. When I went to the sneak preview given for Columbus area media at the IMAX at Patriot Park in the Soldier Center section of the National Infantry Museum Thursday, I learned how it works.
My former WRBL-TV co-worker and present friend Chris Joiner, projection and audio visual manager of IMAX at Patriot Park, which is part of the new National Infantry Museum on Fort Benning Boulevard in Columbus, Georgia, invited me to join him in the projection booth. There I got to see the two IMAX projectors that throw the incredibly huge and clear picture on the five story high and 70 foot wide screen.
Each of these projectors costs $600,000. Only one of them is used for non-3D films. It takes both of them for 3D. These projectors and the 15/70 film, which is ten times larger than 35mm film used in ordinary movie theaters, produce a picture 9 times clearer than any other movie theater in the region. It is so huge that you become immersed in it.
Many regular movie theaters use digital projection now instead of film, and when IMAX at Patriot Park shows movies made in the conventional format, it will use the theater’s $90, 000 digital projector. Those conventional movies in the letterbox format will not fill the entire IMAX screen, but will still be larger than in any other regional theater. Many of the military oriented Hollywood films shown on Military Monday will be shown in the conventional format, but the rest of the week only IMAX movies will be shown.
You’ll be able to particpate in the IMAX experience starting next Thursday, Marh 19th, when the Soldier Center, or first half of the National Infantry Museum, will open. And, if you like, you can eat in the museum’s full service restaurant. Also, on that day, the first basic training class graduation ceremony will be held on the parade grounds in back of he musem. That part of the musem complex is actually on the Fort Benning reservation, but the museum building is located in Columbus. The grand opening of the entire musesum will be on June 19th. Former Secretary of State and General Colin Powell will be one of the notables attending that event.
On Thursday the IMAX theater will show two documentaries, Mysteries of Egypt starts at 5:30, Everest starts at 6:30, and the Hollywood hit The Dark Night, a Batman movie, at 7:30. Prices for films 70 minutes and under are $8 for general admission, $7 for seniors, active and retired military, and high school and college students, $6 for children in non-school groups of 20 or more, and $5 for school groups of 20 or more. (For double features add $4 for second film.) Prices for films over 70 minutes long are $10 for general admission, $9 for seniors, active/retired military and dependents, and high school and college students, $8 for children.
Is it worth it? Based on my experiences in IMAX theaters, including the sneak preview at this one, I would definately say yes.