Monday, March 31, 2008

Field Trip: The Movie Theater

Last week, we attended the eagerly anticipated tour of Chateau Theatres, one of three cinemas in Rochester. I arranged a tour with the manager of the theater for the kids, moms, and one lucky grandpa to go behind the scenes and learn how those movies appear on the big screen. Tickets were $6 a person, and we received a special group rate for snacks: $2.14 for a small popcorn and small soda. After the tour, we attended a showing of Dr. Suess' Horton Hears a Who. The moms laughed so hard at the part early in the movie when the crabby kangaroo mother said that her child is "pouch-schooled."

Caryn shows us how she loads the film onto the reel. She has been working at movie theaters for ten years, and she is the expert at Chateau Theatres. Most movies are loaded in three sections, including the previews at the beginning of the show. Studios recommend their own movies for showing as previews, but the choice of which previews to show on which screens is ultimately the decision of the theater manager and her team.
The shelves are full of previews and movie trailers. When the movies are done showing at the theater, they discard boxes full of previews. The kids were able to choose discarded previews to take home for craft projects and other fun. They were so excited! Max was able to snag a copy of the preview for Horton Hears a Who. Each child also received a bookmark-sized strip from the movie Happy Feet.
Stacy Allison, the manager at both Cinemagic-owned theaters in Rochester, shows us the 3000-watt light bulb that lights up each big screen. The light bulb is encased in a special housing within the projector, and whenever that little door is opened, the light bulb automatically shuts off because it is so bright and dangerous. It is filled with xenon gas, like today's fancy headlights on automobiles.

Above are the two formats for movies: widescreen and fullscreen.

Below, Caryn loads the reel into the projector.

The movies are shipped in these special containers.

The area where the movies are projected onto the big screens. Each projector may cost around $100,000. Many theaters will have to spend one million dollars or more to upgrade to digital equipment in the coming years.
Time for the movie! Maxwell and Mitchell gave it a two-thumbs-up rating.

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