Consolidated Theatres’ Big Play
Last night, Consolidated Theatres offered an early screening of “Toy Story 3 in 3-D” to show off its new “Titan Extreme Cinema” theater. I was eager to see both the movie and the setup, and my family and I were grateful to be invited (along with other local media, contest winners, and “Toys for Tots” donors).
Consolidated is competing against other theater companies as well as increasingly sophisticated home theaters, so “Titan XC” is a big play to highlight the kind of experience you can only get from a night at the movies. And while “Toy Story” is one of Pixar’s most beloved brands, it’s been over ten years since the last installment.
Here’s my take on how the theater and the movie stack up.
The pitch is simple enough: big screen, big sound, and fancy reclining leather seats that you can reserve, just like at an arena concert. Consolidated describes Titan XC as “the largest commercial movie screen in the state” (more on that in a bit), and it’s definitely impressive. Of course, it also made me immediately nostalgic for old movie houses like the Cinerama or Waikiki 3, when big screens were the norm.
I couldn’t find the specs on the NEC digital projection system, though it looked really good. And the screening also showcased Consolidated’s first XpanD 3D system. It’s an “active” (versus “passive”) setup using the fanciest 3D glasses I’ve seen yet. XpanD says the X102 DLP-Link glasses are worth $129 each, which certainly explains the paranoia with which they’re distributed and collected.
The theater also boasted Dolby 7.1 Surround sound (most theaters are 5.1). Some 75,000 watts pumped through over 30 speakers. And I have to admit, I was smitten. Most movie theaters in Hawaii seem to play it safe with their sound, perhaps because they’re afraid of blowing out 10-year-old speakers. Much of the time, it sounds like half of the speakers aren’t even on. It was great to feel the movie’s soundtrack wash over me, the way the sound engineers intended.
The reclining leather seats were a nice touch, getting a nod from my wife. I scared the heck out of my friend’s wife when I accidentally pulled on her chair when standing up, however. The real innovation is in the ability to reserve seats. Frankly, if you’re going to spend the kind of money you’re going to spend to see a blockbuster movie (in 3D, even), it sucks to end up in the first or last row or anywhere you don’t like sitting. Now, you can go online, reserve seats 15 through 18 in row CC, and know exactly where you’re going to sit before arriving at the theater.
Unfortunately, reserved seats don’t solve the problem of ending up next to someone who talks, texts, or snores through the entire movie.
Finally, the price. Titan XC is obviously a “premium” experience, so tickets cost more. $14.25 for adults (versus $10.75), and $11 for kids and seniors (versus $7.50). I’m not sure if there are Titan XC matinees, or a matinee discount, but essentially, the Titan XC experience will add $3.50 per ticket. Interestingly, though, the 3D surcharge is $2, compared to the $4 Consolidated charges elsewhere.
Is it worth it? If you’re a hardcore movie nut or theater snob, I think so. Especially for the price.
Titan XC seems to be Consolidated’s bid to battle the “IMAX Experience” theater at Regal’s Dole Cannery location, and I think it’s a solid alternative. As popular as the “IMAX Experience” is at Regal, I’m constantly reminding people that it’s not real IMAX — at least, not the IMAX that built the brand name people flock to today. At 66-by-35 feet, the Titan XC screen may indeed be bigger than Regal’s “IMAX Experience” screen.
The island’s last remaining real IMAX screen shows only special films out at the Polynesian Cultural Center, hence Consolidated’s “largest commercial movie screen” marketing hedge.
Titan XC offers the biggest screen, great sound, and comfortable reserved leather seats, for less than what you’d pay for the “IMAX Experience.” Regal charges $17 for its biggest screen, plus a $4 surcharge for 3D. So, for example, an adult ticket to see “Toy Story 3 in 3D” this weekend will cost $16.25 for Consolidated’s Titan XC theater at Ward, versus $21 via Regal’s top ticket at Dole Cannery. Moviegoers are very price sensitive, so I think Consolidated is smart to aggressively price its premium offering.
Sequels are never as good as the original, but Pixar’s “Toy Story 2″ in 1999 was arguably a great exception to the rule. That’s why I was somewhat worried about “Toy Story 3,” coming out 11 years later and after fantastic, original outings like “Ratatouille,” “Wall-E,” and “Up.” And most kids who fell in love with the first two “Toy Story” films have grown up quite a bit since then.
Fortunately, “Toy Story 3″ is a more grown up movie. It dives quickly into darker themes (the abandonment issues from “Toy Story 2″ resurface early on), has genuinely scary moments, and leans more toward suspense rather than slapstick action. Even so, Pixar still manages to infuse the movie with its trademark sweetness, with a perfect mix of smart laughs and stupid laughs.
Little boy Andy basically grew up in real time, and after a quick look back at him as a kid (which momentarily made me afraid for another heartbreaking “Up”-style montage), we see him packing up for college. I liked how “Toy Story 3″ matter-of-factly addressed the natural attrition of toys over the years (some of the characters from the last two movies are no longer around), and quickly re-introduced the rift between Woody the true believer and his skeptical friends. Then, the story moves briskly and confidently as they get shipped off to a daycare center, then try to escape.
We meet several new characters, all of which are interesting and fun (particularly a great new villain and his creepy sidekick), but fortunately our favorites remain front and center. There are some beautiful scenes and brilliant moments, including nice homages to other movies and genres. In structure, “Toy Story 3″ is a classic jailbreak caper, but at its heart, a wonderful tribute to friendship and loyalty. Yes, there are moments that might get the waterworks going, like a pitch-perfect curtain call that brings the overall “Toy Story” to a close.
Finally, like other Pixar features, “Toy Story 3″ opens with a short story. And this one, “Day & Night,” is unlike any of the others. It really plays with the mechanics of moving pictures, as well as telling a fun story. My wife says it was her favorite Pixar short yet.
P.S. We saw “Toy Story 3″ in 3D, and I’m happy to say that it wasn’t very 3D at all. Which is to say, I’m not a fan of 3D in general, so I didn’t mind that “Toy Story 3″ used the effect only to add depth to already compelling scenes. Nothing jumps out of the screen at you or calls attention to itself. Of course, that’s what some 3D fans expect, and those people will probably be disappointed. Like most 3D movies, “Toy Story 3″ is just fine in 2D… and, of course, cheaper.