A flurry of activity to convert the former BigD auditorium at the Carmike 15 complex in Columbus is over, and the IMAX experience is set to make its debut Friday with “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.”
Fred Van Noy, chief operating officer at Columbus-based Carmike Cinemas, said local movie fans can expect a “spectacular event” when the second of three installments in the adaptation of the J.R.R. Tolkien classic splashes onto the really big screen in 3-D.
“There are gimmicks out there and there are true game changers in technology,” the executive said. “We think our relationship with IMAX and growing our BigD brand is the right way to go.”
Conversion of the BigD auditorium doesn’t mean Carmike's own concept of a large screen, premium sound and cushy chairs is going away in Columbus. The company plans to shift BigD to a 380-seat auditorium at Carmike 15 early next year.
The new IMAX auditorium, meanwhile, will seat roughly 570 patrons, all of whom will view “The Hobbit” and future IMAX offerings in similar comfort, complete with the technology’s signature sound and a screen that’s 74-feet wide and 40-feet high.
“Based on early tracking numbers, ‘The Hobbit’ is going to be a very successful film, and we will probably keep it here until the next movie that’s available in IMAX, which there are several in the pipeline,” said Van Noy.
IMAX is scheduled to release “I, Frankenstein,” a movie involving gargoyles and demons battling for power, in January, while “The Island of Lemurs: Madagascar,” a true-story documentary on the creatures, is due out in April.
Van Noy said IMAX will not be the latest technological advancement to make it to Columbus as the movie-theater chain seeks new ways to keep movie fans satisfied and on the edge of their seats. That includes an 11.1 Dolby sound system the company recently installed at a new theater in Champaign, Ill. That’s a major upgrade for the current 5.1 sound system in most theaters. He did not give a date for deployment of 11.1 in Columbus.
“The sound systems are getting to the point where they’re not mimicking the sound anymore,” he said. “That’s 50 percent of the experience, and you are being immersed into the picture because of what they’re able to do with the sound and separation of the frequencies, and making sound part of that experience. You’re right there.”
As part of this weekend’s IMAX opening at Carmike 15, customers purchasing a “Hobbit” ticket will be given a voucher that can be used for $3 off a concession combination. It’s valid through Sunday night.
The theater is located at 5555 Whittlesey Blvd., at Columbus Park Crossing, between Sears and h.h.gregg.
This weekend also will see the opening of an IMAX auditorium at the Carmike 14 in Tyler, Texas, with a 20-screen theater in Nashville, Tenn., also scheduled to get the technology soon.
Carmike Cinemas inked a contract with IMAX Corp. in October to install IMAX auditoriums in at least 10 of its movie houses in the coming years. The Columbus company inherited eight more IMAX screens with theater acquisitions within the past year.