Barco Escape, a New Multi-Screen Theatrical Format, to Debut September 19

At CinemaCon last March in Las Vegas, Barco debuted a new theatrical concept that featured three screens in the theater — a main screen and two side screens. The idea was to offer a more immersive experience, which they showed with some compelling content. Now, Barco Escape is ready to roll out this fall in several new theatrical venues with special content.

In my post from March 26 (Barco’s Cinema of the Future is Exciting and Scary at the Same Time), I noted that the demo featured an Ultra HD resolution central screen with two 2K resolution side screens cocked at about a 45-degree angle. This is not quite a seamless blended wide aspect screen as there is separation between the main screen and the side screens, but in some implementations, this gap looks to be quite small (see photo below).

They showed perhaps 5-6 clips with some scenes filling the full canvas with one super wide image and other scenes using the satellite screens to show complementary shots. I was quite impressed with the impact this had.

At the same time, they announced that they were working with Disney and 20th Century Fox to create new tools for this format as well as content. It looks like these efforts will now bear fruit this October.

On September 19, the movie The Maze Runner will debut in theaters. But at six specially equipped cinemas, movie goers will have a chance to experience Barco Escape in Auro 11.1 for the first time. The theaters are noted below.

  • Cinemark 18 & XD at the Promenade at Howard Hughes Center in Los Angeles
  • Cinemark Paradise 24 & XD in Davie, Florida
  • Cinemark Legacy Theater & XD in Plano, Texas
  • Cinemark at Seven Bridges and Imax in Woodridge, Illinois
  • Cinemark’s Redwood Downtown & XD in Redwood City, California
  • Kinepolis, Belgium (October)

In a conversation with Barco’s Cinemavangelist Ted Schilowitz (former founder of RED Cinema), he told us that there will be seven minutes of the special Barco Escape content in The Maze Runner. “There is a minute at the beginning of the movie and then six minutes about an hour in”, he explained. “This is [the] monster scene in the maze that becomes immersive with 270 degrees of content filling your field of view.  The feedback from the initial screenings has been a collective ‘wow’ after this scene ends during the movie”.

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Schilowitz went on to explain that most of the theaters are set up with a 30-35 foot main screen with similar-sized screens on either side.  The main screen will have an UltraHD (not laser) projector running off a 2K DCP. The side screens will have 2K projectors feed with a separate server. These servers do not offer any standardized content protection the way a DCP does, so Schilowitz acknowledges they will have to work with the studios and perhaps SMPTE to develop content protection for this format in the future.

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He also acknowledged there is a sweet spot for the full 270-degree immersive experience, but “the screens are angled so even on the sides it is a very good experience, while at the back of the theater it is a slightly reduced, but still an immersive experience.”

The sequences for the Barco Experience were all created in CG but principal photography was shot with an Arri Alexa camera. In fact, the CG in the movie is also ground breaking as it was developed using the Crytek game engine. Schilowitz said the computer model for the Escape sequence featured more pixels than the 6K x 1K aspect ratio of the final content.

“This is a very public experiment that 20th Century Fox, Barco and Cinemark are carrying out”, noted Schilowitz. “This is a look behind the curtain to watch the evolution of this new format – something that is stretching the comfort zone of these companies, but one which they all now feel very good about. It’s a tremendous amount of fun to collaborate with such forward thinking teams to make this first movie in the Escape format possible”.

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And more content is in the works too. Maze Runner director Wes Ball showed a short motorcycle sequence from his movie short, “Ruin” at CinemaCon in the format in March. That short will now be expanded into a full length movie with Barco Escape sequences. This will follow the Maze Runner 2 movie, which has already been green lighted (and will likely have Escape sequences as well).

Content from “Ruin” will also be available on the Samsung Gear VR headset in only a teaser sequence. That is why it is really more about being a promotion for the movie and the Oculus developed headset – and perhaps the first promotional/advertising content for the virtual reality segment.

Disney is also working with Schilowitz on Escape content, but he was unable to say anything more at this time.

I for one can’t wait to check this new content out. And while the Escape format does require the loss of some seats in the front of the theater, it also now makes those seats perhaps the most desirable for the Escape format. Exhibitors are going to love that.

About Chris Chinnock

Chris Chinnock is the Founder/President of Insight Media. He is a consultant/analyst/blogger/event producer covering the professional AV, display, cinema, broadcast and consumer electronics industries. Free-to-access white papers can be found on www.insightmedia.info with blogs on this site as well as www.displaydaily.com. Chris can be reached at 203-831-8464 or chris@insightmedia.info