Panoramic films and theaters equipped to show them have come and gone over the years, but new panoramic screening technology unveiled earlier in 2014 will debut with the upcoming film The Maze Runner in September.
Digital cinema projector company Barco is hoping its three-screen “Escape” theater configuration will be the next big trend for movie houses, and the technology will gets its first test September 19 when 20th Century Fox premieres The Maze Runner — about a group of teenagers who find themselves trapped in a massive maze — in Escape-enabled theaters. The technology uses three digital cinema projectors and a trio of screens arranged with the primary screen front and center with two angled screens on either side of it in order to create a panoramic presentation.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the decision to present The Maze Runner in the Escape format was made after the film had finished shooting, so the center screen will show the film as it was shot and the side screens will be extensions of the primary scene — extending the walls of the maze around the audience, for example — created using digitally rendered effects. The Maze Runner will be the first film screened for the general public after being specially prepped for this theater configuration.
On the tech side, it’s worth noting that the method for bringing all of the primary and panoramic imagery together into a cohesive film was built using a Crytek gaming engine to render the final product. The studio is currently experimenting with using multi-camera setups to film movies with the three-screen Escape configuration in mind, as well as testing previously released films in the panoramic format.
“We did a test with The Devil’s Double (released in 2011), and now we are discussing the possibility of a re-release of that movie in the Escape format,” said Ted Schilowitz, Barco’s “CinemaVangelist” who also happens to work at Fox. Schilowitz indicated that, since the format is still so new, the production costs associated with filming a movie for this configuration have yet to be determined.
Currently, there are five theater locations equipped with the Escape configuration: Cinemark 18 and XD at the Promenade at Howard Hughes Center in Los Angeles; Cinemark Paradise 24 and XD in Davie, Florida.; Cinemark West Plano and XD in Plano, Texas; Cinemark at Seven Bridges and Imax in Woodridge, Illinois; and Cinemark Redwood Downtown and XD in Redwood City, California. Ticket prices for the Escape screenings of The Maze Runner will reportedly be set by each theater.
The Maze Runner hits theaters September 19.
Here’s a video of Barco’s presentation at CinemaCon 2014, which features the Escape theater configuration: