IMAX 3-D Projector, First on Coast, Gets Lift to New Home


It had traveled 2,500 miles from Toronto and was being lowered through a hole specially cut in the roof. But the real worry for those responsible for the first IMAX 3-D projector on the West Coast was not the potential for human accident. The real worry was dust.

“One speck of dust in there would look like a football on the screen,” said Larry Porricelli, general manager of Edwards 21 Cinemas at the Irvine Entertainment Center.

The 2,000-pound projector, sheathed in thick plastic, lay on skids in the parking lot outside Edwards’ new 21-screen “Big One” theater in Irvine on Monday morning before being lowered into its new home by a 90-foot-high crane.


Inside, scaffolding covered the wall that will eventually bear a screen six stories tall and 90 feet wide. Workers will require three days to paint the space a reflective white.

The projection room will be a “surgical environment,” the workmen said, with a giant vacuum-like cleaning device catching particles before an inch of plastic comes off the $1.8-million projector. By then, anyone entering that room will wear white jumpers and booties.

“It took a year and a half to build this projector,” said Eric Emken, one of the engineers helping to steer the machine inside Monday. “If something happened, it would take a year to replace.”

The theater, which has its own lobby and concession stand, will hold the 21st screen of the giant, $27-million complex that opened just before Thanksgiving. While the complex allows Edwards Theatres Circuit Inc. to boast of it as the largest cinema in the world, the 3-D IMAX screen, expected to open in March, is clearly the coup de grace.

It will be only the second in the country that is made for feature films, as opposed to museum-quality films, Porricelli said. The other is at Lincoln Center in New York City.

The 500 seats are still waiting for installation, but each seat will seem perfect to the viewer because of the stadium-style raking, he added.


“You can look up and down and to the side and always see the screen,” added spokeswoman Judith Brower. “If [the movie has] a dog barking at your feet, you’ll feel like you can kick it.”

That virtual reality sensation comes not just from the mammoth screen or the 80 speakers blasting sound from all sides. Each patron will receive a headset wired for “PSE”--Personal Sound Environment. The headsets, similar to those used in virtual reality games, have built-in speakers and “shutters” to approximate the human visual experience as closely as possible.

“The glasses cost $500 apiece, so you can’t take one home as a souvenir,” Brower said. Devices to protect against theft are being installed near the exit doors, just in case.

Two people care for the other 20 screens in the complex, but a full-time machinist will reign over the IMAX projector and its cooling and ventilation systems.

He or she will bear the title of “presentation manager.”