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Robin Leach

CinemaCon Day 3: 3D and 4D, plus at-seat service, at the movies

CinemaCon 2011 trade show and convention at Caesars Palace on March 29, 2011.
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CinemaCon 2011

CinemaCon 2011 trade show and convention at Caesars Palace on March 29, 2011.

CinemaCon 2011 trade show and convention at Caesars Palace on March 29, 2011.

CinemaCon 2011 trade show and convention at Caesars Palace on March 29, 2011.

CinemaCon 2011 trade show and convention at Caesars Palace on March 29, 2011.

Technology is advancing so quickly in this day and age that it’s often difficult to keep up with the latest trends. The movie theater industry is no different, and that was evident yesterday at CinemaCon, the official convention of the National Association of Theater Owners.

With the price of Coke at the concession stand comparable to the ticket at the box office, therein lies the motivation for industry innovation. While ticket sales mostly go back to the movie houses that produced the films, theater owners are turning in a different direction to reel in the dough: making film viewing an experience.

Multiple avenues are being explored to achieve this goal. 3D glasses have been a longtime staple in the movie business, but their popularity has exploded in recent years. Improvements are still being made to watching films in 3D, and multiple companies are tweaking their products to find the right fit.

One of these companies is XPAND, and it debuted its Youniversal 3D glasses in January at the Consumer Electronics Show. XPAND’s newest glasses really put the “you” in “youniversal” -- the software is customizable and the glasses come in different face sizes and can be used across a wide array of platforms (theater, home, 3D television and laptops) and brands.

Pretty nice compared to the throw-away pairs rocked during Avatar, right? Well, it doesn’t stop there. The glasses worn at the movies were probably made by RealD, as it has captured the majority of the U.S. market. RealD uses passive shutter technology, in which the 3D magic is happening in the projector. XPAND’s products are all active shutter-based, so the technology allows people to view the images popping off the screen in the glasses, not the projector.

After donning a pair for a 10-minute stint in XPAND’s makeshift theater, I can’t wait for more cinemas to take their technology to this level. The images were crisp and real, and the eyewear felt like a normal pair of sunglasses. XPAND’s products are relatively new to the U.S. but are being used in the ArcLight theater chain in L.A.

If you really want to feel like you’re in the movie, you’ll dig the KOR-FX experience developed by Cinema Immerz. The proprietary acousto-haptic technology amplifies emotional and physical responses while watching a film. The KOR-FX machine gently rests over the shoulders and right below the collarbone to deliver vibrations to certain areas of the chest. This activates neural pathways and also monitors the naturally occurring vibrations made when speaking, laughing and crying. So, instead of just watching snipers shoot at a helicopter, you’ll feel the bullets and the buzz of the chopper’s blades. This mode of sensory immersion is new but will soon be penetrating the market with beta testing.

Another trend emerging is face-to-face interaction with an in-theater server. This customer service innovation is being used in several high-end/VIP theaters, and PlexCall is one company in this field. PlexCall designs hardware (call buttons to summon the server) and software (the program that tells the server where attention is needed). Never walk to a concession stand for a refill again!

These advancements are just a few examples of the work that’s being done to get America -- and the world -- off the couch and into movie theaters. If you can see it in 3D, feel it in 4D and call a server to your seat to order a tub of popcorn, why opt out for a Redbox rental months after the movie’s release date? The answer: You don’t.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

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