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Was on vacation in Amsterdam last week and made sure that I saw a film in this amazing theater. It is truly a sight to behold. Beyond the obvious beauty of the theater I was very impressed by the excellent sight lines in the main auditorium. The auditorium is almost as wide as it is long putting the viewer closer to the screen and creating a more intimate feel. The generous width of the theater also works very well with modern widescreen. Presentation was first class also. The projection was 4k Digital annd the digital sound was excellent. The theater Manager actually told me they are working on the sound to find the optimal system and balance in the large auditorium. There’s nothing like watching the curtains part to reveal the screen….a very rare treat these days. Another small but impressive detail was that the appropriate screen masking was even used for the previews. Wonderful experience. It’s unfortunate that all the great theaters in my own City have either been demolished or turned into Rite Aids.
Was visiting London this past week and had the opportunity to see Batman V Superman at the BFI IMAX. Great experience all around. Was pleasantly surprised to find the film being shown on 70mm IMAX film. This is a fabulous IMAX venue with a 20mx26m screen. Better yet, when I asked the theater manager a few questions about the presentation he invited me to visit the projection booth and spend a few moments with the projectionist. The projectionist was incredibly generous answering my questions and explaining the equipment which is very impressive to say the least. He was also quite interested that I was old enough to have experienced real Cinerama, 70mm, and Ultra Panavision. Just a real treat.
It was the 70mm version and was shown in the correct 2.76 to 1 aspect ratio that I saw. The auditorium had a 1.85 to 1 screen which uses top masking to achieve the more typical 2.39 to 1 ‘scope ratio. For the “Hateful 8” in 70mm they opted to not use the top masking and projected the film across the top of the unmasked screen, leaving a large amount of screen below exposed as opposed to a relatively small amount if the top masking had been used. Just for the sake of clarification, 70mm “Ultra Panavision” is basically the 70mm version of Cinemascope in that the 2.2 to 1 70mm frame has a slight anamorphic squeeze that yields the extra wide 2.76 to 1 aspect ratio. “Ultra Panavision” was actually developed as a simpler, less expensive alternative to the three camera/ three projector “Cinerama” which was also projected at 2.76 to 1 ratio on a deeply curved screen. Just a shame that AMC did not opt to do the Roadshow in Aud 24 which has a 2.39 to 1 61 foot wide screen…would have been a real event in that theater.
So, UA Riverview is showing the “Hateful Eight” 70mm Roadshow in the pre-expansion big auditorium. That had to be a far superior experience than the 25'wide 1.85 to 1 unmasked screen presentation I went to at Neshaminy 24. Should went with my initial instinct and saw it at Riverview. I saw “Far and Away” in that same room in regular 2.21 to 1 70mm and it was a great experience.
I sort of get what you mean about the problem with the top masking. It would be quite the understatement (and stating the obvious) that 70mm Ultra Panavision isn’t exactly a good match for a 200 seat multiplex auditorium with a 25' wide 1.85 to 1 screen with top masking for scope. I would think that a 2.39 to 1 screen, even a moderately sized one would have been a better match. Hopefully as digital technology moves forward (I’ve read that Arri now has a 6k camera that has a sensor larger than a 5-perf 65mm film frame and Panavision is working on a digital camera that allegedley will get in the ballpark of 65mm film) we may see a format that will work in the modern multiplex. With home screens getting bigger, better and more affordable everyday it will be needed.
Thanks markp. It’s great to hear from someone who really has knowledge. All the auditoriums at AMC Neshaminy 24 were 35mm at one time and all the rooms have more than one port in the booths so it definately sounds like spin that they couldn’t use any of the big rooms. IMO, they just didn’t want to compromise the “Star Wars” receipts. With regards to the screen masking, I was befuddled as to why they chose not to use the existing movable top masking to at least mask down to 2.4 to 1 which would have significantly cut down on the empty unmasked screen left below the 2.76 to 1 frame. IMO it just really took alot away from the presentation having over a third of the screen unmasked. A small area below the frame would have been much more acceptable. I had considered going to see it at the UA/Regal 17 Riverview Plaza (they actually had 70mm capacity before digital took over; saw “Far and Away” in 70mm there and it looked fabulous) but the Neshaminy is a bit more convenient.
Changed my avatar name to “Cinedelphia” from HowardB so as not to be confused with HowardBHaas. Anyway, went to see the 70mm Ultra Panavision “Roadshow” Engagement of Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” today at Neshaminy. I liked the film itself but what I really want to comment on is the presentation (which was a mixed bag). First the positives: despite the age and cobbled together nature of the old 70mm projectors and 70mm anamorphic lenses that needed to be scrounged for these presentations the projection was bright, jitter free, with the ultra sharp detailed image and depth of field one would expect from real 70mm. No focus problems, etc. There was some damage evident at times on either the right or left edge of the frame (two or three lines) but it was not a distraction and again considering the age , etc of the equipment, understandable. The film was also framed at the proper 2.76 to 1 aspect ratio. Now the negatives: IMO this was a wasted opportunity to see real 70mm. AMC opted to show the film in a 200 seat auditorium with about a 25' wide screen instead of one of the 40' or 50' wide screened large rooms. What compounded the problem was that the auditorium has a 1.85 to 1 screen that has top masking for scope and for whatever reason (could have been some technical reason related to the throw of the 70mm projector) they opted not use use the masking at all and just project the 2.76 to 1 image from the top of the screen down leaving the bottom of the screen empty and the bottom edge of the frame looking a bit blurred and frayed. This definately took away from the impact of the projected image and was a bit distracting to say the least. I did ask one of the Ass’t Managers why they didn’t retro fit one of the large rooms for 70mm (which would have made sense,specifically Auditorium #24 which has a 60'wide 2.39 to 1 screen and side masking) his response was odd, he claimed that the 70mm projector would not fit in the booth…..and then went on the extoll the virtues of the auditorium it was shown in….sounded like spin to me. After giving it some thought, the real reason could be that the theater may have a contractual obligation to show the new “Star Wars” in the largest four auditoriums for the first two weeks of its engagement (not uncommon practice for big event films). Anyway, I don’t regret shelling out the extra bucks despite the shortcomings. What really hit home was the loss of the Boyd and what a perfect venue a restored Boyd would have been for a special, unique engagement like this. If anyone else has seen the 70mm “Roadshow” of Hateful Eight at other venues I’d love to hear of your experience.
According to Philadelphia Magazine writer Liz Spikol, the sad post mortem for the Boyd continues. Long story short, apparently the company that presently owns the Boyd property may not have been planning on actually preserving as much of the Boyd as they had originally promised to preserve. As per the article, “the Architecture Committee of the Phila Historical Commission recently voted to reject the company’s building plans-plans that seemed to preserve less than originally promised”.
I grew up at the Jersey Shore and never had the opportunity to see a film at the Midtown before it was twinned, just as a “twin” and in its latest incarnation as the “Prince”. I would imagine being set up for Todd-AO 70mm that it had a very large wall to wall curved screen and multi-channel sound. If anyone recalls details about the screen size and presentation I’d love to hear about it. Apparently many older theaters made some major changes in the 50’s to accomodate the wide screens for Cinemascope and 70mm. Some ripped out or widened the original prosceniums while some just erected screens, speakers, curtains, etc in front of the old prosceniums.
It was pretty bad as a twin, but not quite as bad as some other “twinnings” from that era. It was a typical wall down the middle job and while the theaters were still large they were very long and narrow, at least the one I was in. It would be great if the Prince under the ownership of the PFS still features some film revivals in between the more commercial films, live shows and Philadelphia Film Festival.
We just have to celebrate the memory of the Boyd and Center City movie palaces of the past. The Boyd is now gone despite the heroic efforts of the dedicated folks who did everything they could to save her. Apparently the City of Philadelphia might have the fewest screens of any major city, especially Center City. It would be no movie palace, but maybe in the not too distant future a nice state of the art movie complex will find its way to Center City….
The fate of the Boyd is a disgrace and an afront to the good citizens of Philadelphia. As much as I wanted to see the Boyd restored and repurposed as a multi-use venue at least I had finally come to peace with the idea of it being remade as a state of the art upscale multiplex with the exterior remaining intact. Center City does not need more condos. Center City needs movie screens. This is not just the ranting of a crazed film fan. I know quite a few people who live in the vicinity of the Boyd and they were really excited at the prospect of having a decent place to go to the movies. To them, it’s a quality of life issue. The only people who will profit from this abomination are the developers and the polititions and power brokers they have in their pockets.
The screen size is a bit compromised due to it being of the non-fixed “flying” variety to accomodate live stage shows. The screen is still not what I would describe as “small”, just a bit undersized for the size of the auditorium. If the Prince was just to be used for film, and a fixed screen erected, the width of the stage could
probably accomodate a 50' to 60' wide screen. I attended screenings of “The Great Escape” and “Once Upon a Time In China” some years back at the Prince and the 35mm film projection and sound were exceptional. I do not know for sure, but I would assume that Digital Projection has been installed. It’s great news that the Prince will continue thanks to the Philadelphia Film Society. As much as I would love to see a bigger screen installed, I realize that for the venue to continue to survive it will probably need to continue as a multi-purpose venue…but it would be great if it would be possible to have a “flying” screen that was better suited to the size of the auditorium.
Hate to burst “film” fans bubbles, but the Woodhaven is now all Digital projection.
Have never experienced a problem at this theater with audience behavior (but I do tend to go at off peak hrs).
The big rooms on the second level are wide and have very large screens (guessing over 50 ft wide), excellent sound and good site lines.
Went to see “American Hustle” on New Years Day and while I was excited that I would be seeing the film in one of the “big” rooms (aud #24) I was a bit disappointed by the presentation. While the digital projection was razor sharp, the screen masking was incorrect. I don’t know why, but the masking was set at approx 2.0 to 1 as opposed to the proper 2.40 to 1 (it was very obvious as you could see the projected image through the masking). I have seen many 2.40 to 1 scope films in aud 24 and the masking was always correct. I let the staff know…but of course nothing was done (I don’t think they would know the difference)…hopefully just a bad day.
Even though it’s a little farther trip I’ve been pretty much going to this theater exclusively the last few months. The projection has been excellent and while none of the auditoriums are of the 500 seat plus variety,6 out of the 14 are wide bodies with between 275 and 300 seats, big screens with proper aspect ratios and side masking.
I used to go to the Roxy back in the 90’s when it showed foreign and indy films. It was the only place outside of NYC you could see these types of films….at the time I could live with the super narrow alley-like auditoriums and tiny screens (in fairness the projection was always good, the staff very nice and they had a great snackbar). These days, I’m not gonna go downtown to see the same movie I can see on a big screen with good sound near home. If they brought back the unique indies and foreign films I might go back. It’s too bad there is such a shortage of screens in downtown Philly.
Only was at the Crest once…saw Scarface on a second run. Don’t remember much about the theater, except it had a much larger screen than the GCC Northeast 4 abomination that I saw the film at during it’s first run. I regret having not taken more advantage of attending the old Northeast Philly neighborhood theaters back when I moved to Philly in 1979.
The Castor had an interesting interior, kind of a forerunner to stadium seating. As I remember, while not being nearly as steep as todays stadium auditoriums, the Castors floor was very steep to the point of having steps. While the Castor apparently had the same number of seats as the Benner, I recall it feeling much smaller and cramped than the Benner.
I attended the Tyson when I moved to Philly in 1979. I remember it as being one of the nicer neighborhood theaters still operating in Northeast Philly at the time. The murals on the walls of Atlantis were quite beautiful and it had a more than decent sized screen along with a nicely lit marquee. I actually presently live within a few blocks of the old Tyson, which is now a discount furnture store so I pass it every day.
I saw “Oliver” at the Merben when I was a kid visiting my cousins in NE Philly. I recall it being a decent sized theater in relativly good shape at the time. I do remember it being on the narrow side which limited the size of the screen, especially for ‘scope presentations.
I’ve seen two “IMAX” films at Neshaminy, Transformers II and Avatar in IMAX 3D. I know that the Digital IMAX format has come under fire as a rip-off. However, after seeing it twice I look at it a little differently. First of all, it’s not real IMAX and the screen is only about 15% larger than before the IMAX conversion. What is impressive is the superb sound and clarity and sharp focus of the digital projection. The reality is, true IMAX wasn’t meant for regular theatrical films. If anybody has seen IMAX at both the Neshaminy and the UA King of Prussia (which has real 70mm IMAX) I’d love to know how they compared. I have heard horror stories of 2.35 films cropped to 1.85 for 70mm IMAX showings.
The two large auditoriums (approx 450 seats each) have decent size screens and very good digital sound and were as nice or better than anything else in the area when they first opened. The rest of the auditoriums feel crampted and are nothing to write home about. The worst two rooms are at each end of the complex, facing the parking lot…narrow, two sections of seats split down the center, screens with verticle masking, reminds you of something from the 80’s. Beware, the boxes of candy they sell are a complete rip-off (big boxes with a much smaller cellophane bag inside holding a paltry amount of candy)…it’s bait and switch as far as I’m concerned.
This may clear up the mystery. Look up the Stanley Theater in Atlantic City. There is a link to a picture. Looking at the picture and the other buildings surrounding the “Stanley” I’m almost certain that the Stanley became the “Roxy” we are discussing here. The “Stanley” is listed as having over 1900 seats, which seems about right from my memories of the “Roxy” in the 60’s.