Schenectady County

Immersive IMAX screen opens today in Guilderland

Capital Region residents who wanted to see a blockbuster movie on an oversized IMAX screen had to ma

Capital Region residents who wanted to see a blockbuster movie on an oversized IMAX screen had to make a long road trip to New York City, Syracuse or elsewhere to do so — until today.

The region’s first IMAX theater opens today at Crossgates Mall with “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa: The IMAX Experience.”

“We have a very strong movie-going audience in the Albany market. Crossgates Mall, even though close to Colonie Center, has maintained a strong following that will be strengthened by IMAX,” said Russ Nunley, vice president of marketing and communications for Regal Entertainment, the company that’s opening the theater.

There is ample competition. Local moviegoers have Proctors’ Iwerks Extreme Screen, which is similar to IMAX; Colonie Center has two screens with 3-D technology.

Regal thinks it will work.

“There are two factors that go into where we place an IMAX,” said Nunley. “We look for high-grossing theaters. The theater at Crossgates is extremely high-grossing. We also look at geography and how far a moviegoer needs to go to find an IMAX theater. Albany is a good location to have the IMAX experience,” he said.

The new theater at Crossgates will be one of about 295 IMAX theaters around the country, including locations in Brooklyn, Garden City, New Rochelle, Rochester, Syracuse and White Plains.

For the uninitiated, IMAX digitally remastered films are projected on a screen that’s slightly curved and moved forward so the audience is immersed. Digital surround sound is a critical part of the experience.

“By the time the picture surrounds you and fills your field of vision, it’s an immersion in a movie, and don’t discount the sound,” Nunley said Thursday afternoon.

Philip Morris, CEO at Proctors in Schenectady, said the new IMAX theater won’t have much of an impact on the Iwerks theater that opened in September 2007 at Proctors’ GE Theater.

“I don’t think IMAX will hurt,” said Morris. “I think they are different. They are doing commercial-run films. It’s digital, which means it’s not as big. The work is similar, but our Iwerks screen is bigger,” said Morris, adding that the screen spans about 60 by 50 feet.

Since the Iwerks facility opened in Proctors, an estimated 30,000 students have attended movies, including “Sea Monsters 3D” and “Antarctica,” films that appeal to families.

Morris said the Iwerks technology was named after its inventor, whose father was Ub Iwerks, the animator who created Mickey Mouse.

Today’s opening of the IMAX theater marks the continuing evolution in the local cinema scene. Regal Entertainment opened new theaters at Colonie Center in May where 3-D films are shown, and Aviation Mall in Queensbury has proposed adding screens.

Nunley said the movie business is recession-resistant.

But you can also expect to dig a little deeper to see an IMAX or 3-D movie — the cost of an adult ticket is $14, and that doesn’t include popcorn.

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