Has Hollywood Found Something Better Than IMAX?

It was only about five years ago that James Cameron's Avatar changed the world's perspective on the cinematic experience and both IMAX and 3D. And while we've seen some marvelous titles take advantage of both formats in the time since, the reality is that the industry is now regularly looking for a way to stay fresh and innovative. We recently saw the format known as 4DX - which turns the theater into a roller coaster ride of sorts - arrive in the United States, but there's more still on the way. For example, it's time for you to learn about Escape.

Since the beginning of the film medium, theaters have been built to feature a single, central screen, but Escape, a new theater configuration introduced by the projector company Barco, is tweaking that model. Two screens are used on either side of the main central screen in an attempt to create a panoramic image and a more immersive feel. The first feature film that will be available in this new format is The Maze Runner, the new young adult adaptation that's being released by 20th Century Fox and will be in theaters on September 19th.

At this point, I imagine that many of you are asking a very important question to yourselves: if a movie is filmed to be projected on just one normal sized/IMAX screen, how is there going to be footage available to be shown on the two extra screens? As you may have guessed, the answer for now is visual effects. According to The Hollywood Reporter, teams of artists were hired to take what's featured on the screen during any given scene in The Maze Runner and expand the view with CGI. In aid of this process, Barco looked to the gaming industry and actually build their work around a Crytek gaming engine. Even if the job isn't 100% perfect, I wonder if this process will work just well enough given that audiences will mostly be focusing on the middle screen no matter what.

Of course, if Escape turns out to be a real success it could also eventually change the production side of the film industry. THR says that Fox is already looking into ways for films to be shot specifically for the Escape format, "trying various single- and multiple-camera setups." In these tests they've used everything from a Red Epic camera (which was used by Peter Jackson to film The Hobbit movies) to tiny GoPro camera. There has also been some development in the department of conversion and re-release. In 2011, Barco worked on converting the dark true-life drama The Devil's Double starring Dominic Cooper for Escape, and there have been talks about sending it into theaters (while I did enjoy the film, I do wonder if it has a big enough profile for a system this new).

There aren't currently many Escape theaters in the United States, but there are a few - all located in Cinemark theaters. You can see them listed below:

  • Cinemark 18 & XD at the Promenade at Howard Hughes Center in Los Angeles
  • Cinemark Paradise 24 & XD in Davie, Fla.
  • Cinemark Legacy Theatre & XD in Plano, Texas
  • Cinemark @ Seven Bridges and Imax in Woodridge, Ill.
  • Cinemark’s Redwood Downtown & XD in Redwood City, Calf.

Has your interest been piqued? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.