Extreme cinema

La Mesa gets Titan XC, Reading Cinema’s large-screen exhibition

Floor-to-ceiling scaffolding? Room One facelift at Grossmont.
  • Floor-to-ceiling scaffolding? Room One facelift at Grossmont.

“Stub me,” I asked while stopping to split my ticket with the usher on duty at Reading Cinemas Grossmont Center. My left hand was preoccupied with notebook and silo of Coke, so I extended my popcorn-dangling right arm in her direction. So as not to spill a kernel, she gingerly took hold of the ticket lodged between my tall and index fingers and gave it a rip before pointing me in the direction of auditorium four.

The cost of the upgrade will not be passed on to the consumer. In fact, it’s about to get cheaper.

The cost of the upgrade will not be passed on to the consumer. In fact, it’s about to get cheaper.

Having spent many a quality hour in this big screen Shangri-La, I instantly sensed change in the air. A pair of stanchions cordoned off the ramp to the big house, Room One. The lightbox above the entranceway was missing its mylar — the heat-resistant plastic film strip with the title backlit and splashed across it. Doors opened wide and work lights blazing were as good an invitation as any for this curious theater hound. Bypassing the ropes and rounding the corner, I froze in my tracks. Three kernels popped out of the bag and bounced off my shoes. Floor-to-ceiling scaffolding?! For one brief blood-curdling moment, visions of a giant jungle gym in a newly christened kid-friendly auditorium flashed before my eyes.

Artist’s rendering of the revamped lobby space at Reading Cinemas Grossmont Center

Artist’s rendering of the revamped lobby space at Reading Cinemas Grossmont Center

Titan XC is Reading Cinema’s brand name for large-screen exhibition, and this is the week Extreme Cinema came to town! What’s it all about? Dual digital projectors for a more brilliant and vibrant image, Dolby 3D capabilities, and Dolby Atmos certified immersive sound. The big Grossmont was the logical venue for the conversion. With a screen that measures 56 feet wide by 31 feet high, it’s one of the biggest, if not the biggest screen in San Diego County.

Let’s put aside the tech talk for a moment and get to the important news, news that’s going to have a direct impact on your entertainment dollar. What you are about to read will thrill you. It may shock you. The cost of the upgrade will not be passed on to the consumer. If anything, it’s about to get considerably cheaper.

A seat to an evening performance at the AMC Mission Valley IMAX will cost you $19. Movies presented in Titan XC are only $10. Starting Friday, Reading will introduce a fixed ticket price of $8.50 — all shows, all times, all ages — at both Grossmont and Reading Town Square. And say goodbye to 3D surcharges; Reading will pop for the glasses.

Tired of having to mortgage the house each time you visit a multiplex concession stand? How about six bucks for an extra-large bag of popcorn with unlimited refills? The entire household can feed off it! Sunday is family bargain day. Two-dollar red hots! And for only $10, the clan can chow down on a bottomless bag of corn, two medium sodas, plus a candy of their choice.

Now comes the fun part: putting together a list of questions for John Sittig, director of projection and sound for Reading International, Inc. Here are a few of John's answers from our email exchange.

Scott Marks: The press release refers to Titan XC’s “new, state-of-art Dolby Digital projection system.” What’s new about it?

John Sittig: We are not installing a Dolby Cinema Digital projection system which, among other things, uses dual laser projectors. Grossmont is using dual Barco 4K digital projectors with a light output of 13,000 watts.

SM: What is the difference between Titan XC and IMAX?

JS: IMAX and Titan XC are both large-screen formats. When it was primarily used in museums, IMAX produced films in 70mm had a resolution of approximately 12K. Today, commercial films playing in IMAX screens use the same digital file as any other conventional screen playing the same title. IMAX has produced certain scenes or sequences in native IMAX photography for some tent-pole films, but the same scene appears in non-IMAX at regular theatres. Like Titan XC, IMAX has certain requirements for screen size, capacity, etc.

SM: Why does one need scaffolding to install a new projection system?

JS: Installing and laser positioning the 20 ceiling speakers to Dolby’s rigid requirements.

SM: Will you screen Titan A.E. in Titan XC?

JS: Highly unlikely (but I do commend you on your sense of humor).

SM: Without getting too technical, what’s different about the sound quality?

JS: What we are installing the Dolby Atmos immersive sound system. Where 99% of digital auditoriums have either 5.1 or 7.1 sound (meaning three stage channels and a left and right surround channel or left, right, left rear, right rear channels), Dolby Atmos has five stage channels. In addition, at Grossmont we have ten surrounds each on left and right walls, six on the rear wall, and two rows of ten speakers on the ceiling running from screen to rear wall.

The genius of Atmos is that each of these speakers is individually amplified and individually “addressable,” so a sound that happens just to the right of the screen will only come out of the closest right-wall speaker. A sound that starts in the rear of the theatre and moves to the screen will be heard for one speaker to the next as it moves down the side wall. The same process applies for sounds over your head. Atmos has six double-bass subwoofers behind the screen and three on each wall in the auditorium side wall to bring explosions into the seating area. It is totally immersive and as lifelike as possible.

It’s a good thing I asked John not to get too technical. This cat knows more about large-format presentation than anyone else in town.

For years, my favorite place to watch a movie in San Diego was the big Gaslamp. In the wake of its passing, the Grossmont 1 and/or 10 now top the list. Long before Titan XC, I preferred seeing films on their giant screens, even over the AMC Mission Valley IMAX. Grossmont is a quick ten minutes east of Mission Valley. Movie fans owe it to themselves to make the extra effort.

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