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Barco Escape takes Star Trek beyond a normal viewing experience

jsoutherniconIf you want to see “Star Trek Beyond” you can go to most any movie theater to enjoy it.

If you want to experience the new Star Trek movie in a whole new format, you need to go see it at the Santikos Palladium on the Grand Parkway (or its sister theater in Tomball) in the new Barco Escape three-screen format. The theaters are among only 30 worldwide to already have Barco Escape installed and “Star Trek Beyond” is the third major motion pictures to be presented in the tri-screen format.

Barco Escape has the main screen in the center and adjoining screens on the left and right side of the theater to give you an enormous, curved panoramic perspective. The Barco Escape concept has been in use for years in theme parks but has only recently been adapted for movie theaters.

The Barco Escape three-screen format creates an extra-wide panoramic experience that surrounds the audience in the theater.

The Barco Escape three-screen format creates an extra-wide panoramic experience that surrounds the audience in the theater.

“This is how we see the world; the world is all around us,” Barco Escape CEO Todd Hoddick told me in a phone interview.

This cutting-edge technology is a milestone in cinematic history ranking up there with the introduction of sound and color, followed by 3-D, surround-sound, giant screen (IMAX) and digital projection.

“We are delivering an experience you can’t get anyplace else,” Hoddick said.

The entire movie is not filmed in the Barco Escape format. In the case of “Star Trek Beyond” there are only a combined 20 minutes of three-screen experience.

“They put them where they believe the format enhances the story,” Hoddick said.

BarcoEscapeMost of the time you’re watching it like a normal movie. But when big, epic action takes place or there is a need to show a wide expanse, the side screens light up. They can also operate as independent panels to depict scenes happening on the side.

Hoddick told me that there are plans to have Barco Escape in 100 theaters by the end of the year and in 1,000 within three to five years. He said we are fortunate to have the format in our back yard.

“We have a special relationship with Santikos,” he said.

There are four movies being released in the new format this year, eight scheduled for next year and 12 per year after that. In addition, super producer Jerry Bruckheimer is a champion of the format.

“What Jerry wants to do is re-envision one of his early movies in the format,” Hoddick said.

Let me go on record as hoping it’s “Top Gun.”

As for the current theatrical experience, seeing this movie in this format gave me some very mixed feelings. I imagine this is how people in the 1950s felt when seeing 3-D for the first time. It’s an exciting novelty but it has some serious imperfections. First of all, the side images are distorted much in the way a panoramic photo does when taken in a semi-circle. It’s not bad but it is a distraction. Also, the images didn’t line up perfectly. You didn’t notice it during big space battles but when a human moved across the screens it jumped out as an annoyance. Additionally, the side screens were often a flatter contrast than the main screen.

On the other hand, it really draws you into the movie when the action is big and fast. At times it was even overwhelming, leaving you a bit dizzy. That’s the way I felt the first time I saw an IMAX movie. When the format works, it’s mind-blowingly awesome. Having the screens come on and off takes some getting used to, especially if it is only on for a few seconds or so.

I think as the technology improves and filmmakers experiment with it that it will become a standard format that all moviegoers will want and expect to see, but it’s not there yet. Still, if you want to see something cool and cutting-edge, this is it.

As for “Star Trek Beyond” this 50-year Trekker absolutely loves it. Yes, there were some really corny moments and some gaping plot holes but overall the movie kept me on the edge of my seat, made me laugh and also cry with twinge of nostalgia. There is some really good character development that was missing in the earlier Trek reboots.

I’m curious to see it on a regular screen to compare the experiences and to see how well it holds up without the multi-screen enhancements. I think it will do just fine but I’m also very pleased to have been one of the first people in the world to see this movie in this format. I think the future is bright for both Barco Escape and the Star Trek franchise.

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