Archive for June, 2010

“How to Train Your Dragon” is Sensational in IMAX 3D

June 27, 2010

Theatrical release poster (Paramount Pictures)

Even if you’ve seen “How to Train Your Dragon” at a conventional theater, you’ll do yourself a favor to go see it again at the National Infantry Museum’s IMAX  Theater.  As  New York Times movie reviewer A.O Scott says, “And the real distinction of ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ — the reason it deserves to be seen in a theater with special glasses on, rather than slapped on the DVD player when the children are acting up — lies in those airborne sequences..”  Add the huge IMAX screen and those dragons really soar.

 After enjoying the IMAX experience with a fairly good-sized audience Saturday evening, I can understand why the movie got so many good reviews.  Not only is the animation art breathtaking, but, you actually start caring about the characters, including the dragon Toothless. 

 While I heartily recommend this highly entertaining animated film, I would add one note of caution.  It is extremely violent with a lot a crashing sound effects and dragons spitting blazing fire.  It might be too scary for a child under five. A friend of mine said it would be too scary for a child under ten.  I guess it depends on the child.  Of course, people like to be scared by movies. I guess it’s sort of like the thrill you get when riding a rollercoaster.  One friend told me a few years ago that when she took her small boy to see “Jurassic Park,” he got down on the floor and hid under the seat, but when she asked him, “Do you want to leave?” he said “No!”

IMAX at Patriot Park Revisited – Part 3

June 23, 2010


Since I really enjoy the IMAX experience, I want to see the theater at the National Infantry Museum succeed.  With that in mind, I decided to get a progress report on the first year in operation. 

Ben Williams, Executive Director, National Infantry Foundation, in the lobby of the National Infantry Museum's IMAX Theater

National Infantry Foundation Executive Director Ben Williams, who is also managing the theater at this time, told me, “It has been moderately  successful.” Attendence since the theater opened was 107,800.  He went on to say that financially it broke even for the first year.   Maybe that’s not so bad since the first year has been a learning experience.

When it first opened in March of 2009, along with the stunningly beautiful IMAX documentaries, a Hollywood feature movie was shown every day.  The problem was they were second-run.  They had already had long runs in Carmike Cinemas’ theaters in Columbus. Ben told me that the foundation decided that since theirs is a museum IMAX, and since first run movies are really expensive, anyway, they wouldn’t get into the first-run game.

However, they learned that some second-run films do well for them so they will continue to run them from time to time.  It depends on the movie. During the Christmas season, Polar Express attracted large crowds. During its run it attracted  7,400 people , “Our best film so far.” A lot of folks were there the night we attended. Probably one of the reasons is that seeing it in a conventional theater is entertaining, but seeing that movie in 3-D on the huge IMAX screen with the theater’s incredible sound system is really spectacular. Also, the marketing was creative.

"Conductor" Owen Ditchfield punches 3-year-old Cliff Tankersley's ticket, as mom Ann looks on

In the theater lobby, volunteer Owen Ditchfield dressed in a train conductor’s uniform and delighted kids and their parents by punching their tickets.  The foundation plans to do it again this Christmas.  Why not?  It’s a Wonderful Life draws audiences every Christmas when it’s run on TV.  Some movies are evergreen.

Just started its run. Showtimes are at 1:30 and 6 p.m.

The theater just started running another Hollywood feature film, How to Train Your Dragon in IMAX 3-D.  It has gotten really good reviews. Maybe the IMAX experience will do the same thing for it that it did for Polar Express.  I plan to check it out to see.

While the full-length feature films will run from time to time, the theater’s mainstay will continue to be the shorter documentaries.  When people come to visit the museum, they are more likely to be willing to take 45 minutes to see a documentary than sit through a movie that can last more than 90 minutes, Ben said.  

Since that is the case, it is really fortunate that the documentaries that are shot with IMAX cameras are so well made.  Stunning and spectacular are not hyperbole when applied to those docs.  When “members” of the Lewis and Clark expedition shoot the rapids, you feel as though you’re in the canoe with them.  Ben tells me, by the way, that the Lewis and Clark film is the museum’s most successful documentary.

However, Hubble 3-D could give it a run for the money.  It’s pulling in good audiences.  It deserves it.  You’ve never seen the galaxies in a more spectacular fashion than through the Hubble space telescope images projected on the IMAX 5-story tall, 72-feet wide screen.  It’s magical.

The theater’s newest doc is Fighter Pilot” Operation Red Flag. It follows a fighter jet pilot, the grandson of a World War II ace, as he participates in the most challenging combat training course for fighter pilots.  We’ll probably feel like we have flown the course ourselves since a lot of it is shot from inside the cockpit for an F-16.  I haven’t seen it yet, but I will.

Sometimes when I go there are only a few people in the theater and that concerns me, but, then I have to reflect on the fact that that also happens sometimes when I go to a Carmike Cinemas’ movie.  I’ve been to the Peachtree Art Theater when I was the only person there.  After watching some of the movie, I realized why. However, I’ve also seen decent crowds and really fine movies there. You can’t judge by just one visit.

When I went to the National Naval Air Museum at the Naval Air Station Pensacola IMAX, I saw a Blue Angels documentary, The Magic of Flight. Since that amazing Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron is stationed next door to the museum, what could be more appropriate? 

Blue Angels in Diamond formation (Photo by Jon Sullivan)

And what could be more appropriate than an IMAX documentary about the United States Army Infantry at the National Infantry Museum? It would be a natural and should be highly successful if done well.  The National Infantry Foundation folks know this and want one.  The problem is cost.  We’re talking millions.   Actually, though, it would seem to me that it shouldn’t be hard to get someone to sponsor it.  For instance, The Magic of Flight is sponsored by aircraft manufacturer and defense contractor McDonald Douglas, which merged with Boeing in 1997.  Fighter Pilot, the doc we told you that is now playing at the Infantry Museum, is a Boeing sponsored film. You would think defense contractors would line up to sponsor an IMAX U.S. Army Infantry film.  But, the sponsor certainly wouldn’t have to be a defense contractor. 

As I said, I want the theater to be successful.  One of the ways to help it is to go and enjoy it, which I have done and will continue to do, and I hope you join me.  Or, even better yet, get up a group to go.  I did that once.  20 of us saw a movie, and then had dinner at the Fife and Drum. It was fun.

IMAX at Patriot Park Revisited – Part 2

June 22, 2010

As promised, we are going to take another behind the scenes look at the National Infantry Museum’s IMAX Theater, by returning to the theater’s projection booth.  We were there the first time a little over a year ago.

70mm IMAX film is fed from a revolving platter to the IMAX projector.

 One of the reasons that the IMAX pictures are so clear is that 70mm film is used, which is twice as large as the 35mm film used in non-IMAX theaters.  While digital projectors have gotten competitive with film quality, film still has the highest resolution.  The film is placed on platters and is strung over to the projectors.  We caught Wendy loading the documentary Fighter Pilot into the IMAX projector. 

Wendy Banks loading "Fighter Pilot" into one of the two National Infantry Museum's IMAX projectors.

It is a sophisticated device that costs a lot of money, a great deal more than conventional theater projectors. There are two in the booth. It takes one for a 2-D movie, but both for 3-D. IMAX just started playing the 3-D annimated How to Train Your Dragon. Projectionist Chris Joiner says once the How to Train Your Dragon film is loaded onto a platter it weighs 800 pounds.

Mark Torbett works on the reel unit that will feed the second projector for the 3-D movie "How to Train Your Dragon." 3-D requires both projectors to run at the same time.

   It takes two projectors for 3-D so we are talking about 1600 pounds of film for that movie.  (There is also a digital projector in the booth for showing conventional movies. Most of the films are IMAX, but on special occasions conventional movies are shown. )

 I asked the museum’s Executive Director Ben Williams about the price of the IMAX projectors. He said that IMAX leases equipment instead of selling it. “We lease the equipment from IMAX for $1.7 million over a ten year period,” he told me. That’s for the projectors, the sound system, and the  tall, wide screen.  For that amount, IMAX also is responsible for maintaining the equipment. 

The museum’s IMAX screen is 52 feet high, about as high as a five-story building, amd 70 feet wide.  That’s really big, but there are IMAX theaters with even larger screens.  The largest one, according to Wikipedia is “in the LG IMAX theatre in Sydney, New South Wales. It is approximately 8 stories high, with dimensions of 35.73 × 29.42 m (117.2 × 96.5 ft) and covers an area of more than 1,015 m2 (10,930 sq ft).”

In fact, there are three types of IMAX theaters.  The one at the museum is in the 300-seat and under group; it has 293 seats.  There is a second group for theaters that are more than 300-seats.  And you also have the dome theaters that have curved screens.  Chris tells me that the closest dome IMAX is in Birmingham.  He said the projection booth in that theater has glass walls so that patrons can see it in operation as they enter the theater.  The projector is on an elevator. Once loaded, it is raised 50 feet up into the dome. 

Dust cleaners that are part of the cleaning mechanism in the projectors

 Knowing that dust is an enemy of motion picture film, and that the film on the platter is exposed to whatever is in the air, I asked Wendy about that.  The film is dusted by a device that is inside the projector.  It consists of a piece of glass that moves up and down and moisturized tapes that remove dust.  

 When the theater first opened, regular Hollywood movies were shown on a daily basis, along with the shorter documentaries, but that practice was ended when the theater switched mainly to documentaries; however, some Hollywood movies are still shown. We’ll tell you why and take a look at how well IMAX in Columbus has fared in its first year in our next post.

IMAX at Patriot Park Revisited – Part 1

June 21, 2010

Wendy Banks, National Infantry Museum IMAX Theater projectionist

Wendy Banks says, “I love my job.”  Her job is operating the highly sophisticated and very expensive movie projectors at the IMAX Theater at the National Infantry Museum.  She says her first job was as an usher in a movie theater.

“They moved me out of ushering and into selling popcorn when they found out I wasn’t a good bouncer. You know, ushers have to kick rowdy people out of the theater. But I loved working there then, and I love doing this now.”

I told her that I did know about the perils of being an usher since I was one.  I ended up being promoted to Assistant Head Doorman, and, at age 14, did indeed manage to keep order.  It was during World War II and the crowds were huge, which meant I had to learn about crowd control. Also, I broke up some smooching in the balcony, and made people get their feet off seats in front of them; however, I never “kicked” anyone out of the theater, but one guy thankfully left of his own accord after threatening me with physical violence.  

I also remember that projectionists were the elite pros. Back when I was an usher, they were unionized, made good money, and were not to be “bothered” by the likes of people like me.  That means Wendy has made it almost to the top of the movie theater pecking order, especially as a projectionist who operates IMAX projectors.  They definitely are not ordinary and are top of the line. 

Since my hit meter tells me that I continue to get multiple hits almost daily on my posts of more of than a year ago about behind the scenes at IMAX, and the greatest interest is in the projectors, I asked Ben Williams, Executive Director of the National Infantry Foundation, to allow me back into the projection booth to learn more about them.   He accompanied me there and I’ll take you there  for a close-up look at those technological marvels, and a progress report on the IMAX Theater.  Stay tuned.

Infantry Museum’s IMAX Theater Shows “To Hell and Back” Sunday, Audie Murphy’s Birthday

June 19, 2010


Audie Murphy was the most decorated soldier of World War II. The military's top award, the Medal of Honor, was one of the many he was given. After the war he became a movie star and played himself in "To Hell and Back." He was killed when his private plane crashed in 1971. His grave at Arlington is the second most visited, with John F. Kennedy's being most visited. (U.S. Army photo)

The showing of “To Hell and Back” is a benefit screening for the local Audie Murphy club.  Proceeds will go to the club and the museum. The public is invited. Tickets are $10.

Though shown int he IMAX Theater, it will not be an IMAX movie, shown instead on the theater’s digital projector which is similar to the ones in Carmike Cinemas.  

Speaking of projectors, we’ll take a closer look at the IMAX projectors and how the theater has fared in its first year of operation starting Monday. Stay tuned.

The Tennessee River Solution

June 13, 2010

John Ross Bridge spanning the Tennessee River, Chattanooga, TN

 Atlanta attorney Brad Carver, who works with Governor Sonny Perdue and others on water matters, says tapping into the Tennessee River is the most practical solution to the Atlanta area’s water shortage problem.  Georgia maintains the state border at Nickajack was incorrectly surveyed in 1818, and the correct survey would put a section of the Tennessee in Georgia. 

Atlanta attorney Brad Carver, speaking to the Rotary Club of Columbus, Columbus, GA (Photo by Jim Cawthorne, Camera1)

Carver told Columbus Rotarians that Tennessee is already benefiting economically from Georgia’s water problem.  Prospective industries are becoming wary of North Georgia because of the problem, and some have already decided to locate in Tennessee instead. That’s one of the reasons, maybe the biggest one, that prompts Tennessee to tell Georgia to forget about it. 

 While Georgia is trying to work out something with Tennessee, Carver told me after his Rotary talk that inevitably the U.S. Supreme Court will decide who is right.  He wants Governor Perdue to go ahead and file suit against Tennessee so the court can start deliberating the case.  He said the court is charged with settling disputes between states.  When I reminded him that Perdue won’t be governor much longer, he agreed and said he hoped the suit would be filed soon. Once that legal ball gets rolling, Alabama is sure to get into the game because the Tennessee flows into Alabama. 

River Walk on the Chattahoochee River, Columbus, GA

As far as Georgia taking billions of gallons out of the Tennessee, he said the Tennessee River is so large that it can easily supply water to Atlanta without hurting Tennessee economically or environmentally.  While we may think the Chattahoochee is a big river, it is small compared to the Tennessee. He says the Tennessee is seventeen times as large as the Chattahoochee. 

Chattahoochee Valley Libraries Honors Five “Volunteers of the Year”

June 10, 2010

By Jim Shehy, Volunteer Coordinator,
Chattahoochee Valley Libraries

Columbus, GA – (CVL news release) The Chattahoochee Valley Libraries have always appreciated their volunteers.  Men and women of all ages give their time and talent to the Library system in order to contribute to their community and assist in making the public Library a vital community resource.  For the past several years one very deserving and very dedicated volunteer is honored with the title “Volunteer of the Year.” 
On Monday, June 14, the Chattahoochee Valley Libraries will commemorate their previous five adult Volunteer of the Year honorees by installing tree dedication plaques in their honor.  Past recipients Paul Argue (2005), Carolyn Smoot (2006), Charles Batastini (2007), Frank and Donna Doyle (2008), and last year’s 2009 recipient Art Halouska will each be recognized with a commemorative inscription and tree dedicated to them along the Columbus Public Library Campus.
“Volunteers give so much to the Library System,” notes Jim Shehy, Volunteer Coordinator.  “They are extremely important men and woman; you can always count on our volunteers to have a smile and lend a hand whenever needed.  I don’t know what we would do without them!”
 All Library volunteers are recognized during National Volunteer Week each spring and the 2010 Volunteer of the Year honoree will be announced at the Libraries’ annual volunteer recognition luncheon held each fall.  Stop by the Columbus Public Library and see just one of the ways Chattahoochee Valley Libraries show their support and appreciation to their volunteers.
If you wish to become a volunteer or for additional information about the volunteer program at the Chattahoochee Valley Libraries, please contact Jim Shehy at the Columbus Public Library (706) 243-2674.

Columbus Public Library, Columbus, Georgia

Education Cuts in 1932 and Now

June 7, 2010

While reading FDR, Jean Edward Smith’s remarkable biography of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, I came across a statistic that made me reflect on the comparisons between 1932 and now.  Painting the picture of the critical state the nation was in when Roosevelt won in a landslide over Herbert Hoover,  there is a line that says “Georgia closed more than one thousand schools with a combined enrollment of 170,000.”

I don’t know how many schools have been closed in the state because of the current recession, but I heard that the Muscogee County School District, which is now facing an $18  million cut of state funds , has lost $90 million in state funds over the last 8 years, the 8 years of the Governor Sonny Perdue administration.

I think we are going to hear the word “education” quite a bit between now and the General Election in November.  Get ready for major spinning.

Add Meat to Things that May Destroy the World

June 2, 2010


With all of the other destructive and chaotic things we have to worry about everyday, you can add another one.  Eating meat can destroy the world.  If the world’s people don’t stop pigging – out on meat,  disaster will hit by 2050 when the world’s population hits 9.1 BILLION people.  At least that’s what an article in The Guardian says. It quotes releases from the United Nation’s Environmental Programme or UNEP.  (“Programme” is British for “program.” Hey, I’m quoting a Brit newspaper.)

The article reports “Professor Edgar Hertwich, the lead author of the report, said: ‘Animal products cause more damage than [producing] construction minerals such as sand or cement, plastics or metals. Biomass and crops for animals are as damaging as [burning] fossil fuels.’ ”

What’s happening is that as people in developing countries become more affluent they pick up on Western ways, things like eating a lot of meat.  It’s going to take 70 percent more food than now being produced to feed 9.1. billion people.  Eating meat uses up a lot more veggies that animals eat than just eating the veggies.   

Actually, I can think of a very good reason right now not to eat a lot of meat.   It’s not good for you.  The big problem, though, is that most of us don’t give a fig about that.  We’re hooked on steak, chops, meatloaf, fried chicken,  etc.  I have to admit that I like Brunswick Stew made with a lot of barbecue.  However, I have cut way down on my meat-eating over the years. Since I like veggies, it’s not all that hard.  At least, not for me.  How about you?