One day after Cineplex Odeon raised its ticket prices, AMC Entertainment told of plans to enhance the quality of films in some of its 1,518 screens nationally--without raising admission prices, at least for now.
Larry Jacobson, vice president for purchasing and facilities for the Kansas City-based chain, said a number of new screens, the Torus Compound Curved Screen, are being installed. Jacobson said the screens would improve sharpness and contrast of 70-millimeter and 35-millimeter prints.
AMC executives also said prices are being held at $6 at its Century 14 in Century City, $5.75 at the AMC 10 in Burbank and $5.50 elsewhere. Nor have concession prices been boosted, Jacobson said.
In a Thursday morning demonstration of the new screen, designed and developed by the Sigma Design Group, selected reels of "2001: A Space Odyssey," "The Untouchables" and "Willow" were shown at the AMC 10 in Burbank for exhibition and distribution executives, sound and projection engineers and film systems technologists.
The major advantage of the Torus screen is its compatibility with standard projection equipment. The screen--solid, not perforated, and held in shape by a vacuum behind it--and the accompanying sound system are all that are required. The system's main drawback is that behind-the-screen sound systems cannot be used with the Torus' solid screen.
Jacobson said his company has been "on board" the new screen project since the beginning. AMC is building 76 screens employing the Torus system--including a completely "Torused" six-plex in Denver--and plans to install the system in an unspecified number of its existing theaters.
The other factor in the Torus system's favor is its relatively small cost to the exhibitor, its developers say.
"It costs much more to (remove existing flat screens and replace them with the new ones) than to design it in from the first brick," he said. "Installing the Torus new could cost upward of $1,100--which isn't compared to a new popcorn popper (which costs about $5,000)."
Reaction from the industry audience at the demonstration seemed livelier than a new popper. Though some complained of an increased flickering of the images (using the new screen with standard 24 frame-per-second projection), the consensus was positive.
"It gives 35-millimeter film the breadth of 70 (millimeter)," one exhibitor said. "Which is important, considering a 70-millimeter print costs 12 times as much to make as a 35-millimeter."
"It's a good compromise," said another. "Even the seats no customer wanted to sit in before (close to the screen, on the sides, in the back corners) are usable now. People may not be unhappy where they sit now."