3-D movies coming to Juneau

Glacier Cinamas assistant manager Tyler Timbrel holds a film platter used on the older 35mm film projectors, left, on Thursday. This week the theater is replacing their projectors with new digital ones, right, that will also beef up the surround sound experience. Movies will now arrive on a computer hard drive.

This weekend will mark the first 3-D theatrical option in Juneau. Gross Alaska is bringing 3-D movies here as part of a total digital conversion that makes film reels — literally — a thing of the past.


Glacier Cinemas will debut the format. Digital projectors have replaced the old reel-to-reel ones. Brackets are rigged to move in front of the projectors, creating depth where the filmmakers intended, depth that special glasses accompanying the movies will provide.

“It does what the red and blue glasses did,” said Shane Solomon-Gross, Glacier Cinemas’ lead manager.

His father and company general manager Kenny Solomon-Gross said that while Glacier’s replaced projectors are from 1983 and 1997, the digital ones going into downtown’s 20th Century Theatre will replace projectors that have been around since the 1940s.

Besides the projectors, the screens and sound systems have been replaced for the digital conversion. Shane said there are two silver screens that allow the right contrast and depth for 3-D. The others are white screens.

“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” opening Friday, will be the first movie shown here in 3-D. There will also be the option to view it in 2-D.

Kenny said he expects to have 2-D options available for other 3-D films as well. He said this, as well as which movies arrive in 3-D, depends on the distributors.

Kenny and Shaun discussed several advantages the company will see in the digital conversion.

The company’s new digital projectors get the movies from hard drives instead of reels. The drives are plugged in and downloaded as opposed to having the reels spliced together before show times. The distributor then emails the digital unlock codes similarly to how they sent the codes to unlock the reels.

They said it takes about 15 to 20 minutes to get a movie and digital trailer package together while it could take up to two hours with reels. The new hard drives are also considerably lighter and less cumbersome.

Running the pictures will be easier, too. Kenny said when all the digital setups are working, they can be set up from a single office. Kenny and Shane agreed this will give the managers, who often serve as projectionists, more time to devote to customer service.

“Not one job was lost,” Shane added of the digital conversion.

They said show quality was another advantage, explaining that the film on reels would always go down in quality with each showing, regardless of care. Programs from hard drives don’t face that obstacle.

“We expect the quality of the feature will always be the same,” Kenny said.

“I want our shows to be in line with the directors’ intent,” said his son. He added, “If you show perfect quality, the customer won’t feel cheated.”

He said the other reason for bringing the digital format here was make movies more of an event in the community. He said Gross Alaska has always been committed to Southeast Alaska, thus justifying the “substantial investment” in the conversion.

Kenny said another reason for the conversion is the industry’s move toward digital.

“It was a factor because I feel film won’t be around past 2013, he said. “Essentially, the days of projectors are over.”

“Customers ask for 3-D and they want it,” Kenny said.

3-D movies will cost an additional $3, including glasses. Kenny said 3-D prices are universally higher than 2-D, as set by the distribution companies. He said Gross Alaska’s ticket prices are still below the national average.

“We’re very competitive in our prices,” Kenny said. “This is a nice, inexpensive form of entertainment.”

Gross Alaska is holding an open house for digital and 3-D demonstrations Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon at Glacier Cinemas. The demonstrations start at 11 a.m. The first 150 people there will get free 3-D glasses. Food and door prizes await, too.

Glacier Cinemas will be closed Thursday for a private event. 20th Century Theatre in downtown will still be open that day.

• Contact reporter Jonathan Grass at 523-2276 or jonathan.grass@juneauempire.com.


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