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Marcus Theatres announced recently that the Marcus Gurnee Cinemas in Gurnee, Illinois is being upgraded with one of Marcus' big-screen concept "UltraScreen" auditoriums. Two of the theater's 20 auditoriums are being demolished to make room for the extra-sized auditorium, which will have more than 400 seats and feature a 72'x31' screen and the first Barco Auro 11.1 sound system in the Marcus chain and in the region.
“Marcus Theatres is continuously striving to meet our customers’ sophisticated tastes and desire for a truly unique experience when going to the movies,” said Bruce J. Olson, president of Marcus Theatres. “The giant UltraScreen, combined with the Auro 11.1 system, will provide moviegoers with a stunning audio and visual experience unmatched in the film industry.”
The project is slated to be complete by October 2013, according to the press release issued by the company. The theater is located in the Gurnee Mills Mall, and the nearest Marcus UltraScreens at this point are at the Marcus Renaissance Cinema in Sturtevant (outside Racine), Wisconsin and Marcus Elgin Fox Ultrascreen Theatre in Elgin, Illinois. Both of those locations are about 25-30 miles away from the Gurnee location.
The largest screen that we're aware of nearby is the IMAX screen at the Regal Lincolnshire Stadium 21 & IMAX in Lincolnshire. Similar to IMAX showings, UltraScreen presentations usually incur an upcharge in the ticket price. No pricing has been announced on the unfinished auditorium at the Gurnee location, but the two nearby UltraScreens have upcharges between $1-$2 when compared to the standard adult ticket prices. In contrast, the Regal in Lincolnshire charges $2.50 more for an IMAX 3D adult evening ticket than a 3D showing at the same time in the non-IMAX screens. IMAX has been seeing increased pressure on the bigger-is-better front, with all the major theater chains having some alternative that offers a larger screen, upgraded sound, and often, other amenities as well.
In our experience with the UltraScreen at Marcus Majestic Brookfield in Waukesha, Wisconsin, the upcharge for UltraScreen shows is well worth the price paid. One could argue that all screens at a movie theater charging above $10 for a movie ticket should be to that level of performance, but they're not, so if you're going to pay good money to see a movie, you might as well pay a little more to see it in the best presentation available.
The Barco Auro 11.1 Sound System
Barco's Auro 11.1 sound system is an expansion of the traditional 6- or 7-channel sound system found in many of today's movie theaters. It adds height to the sound in the auditorium by providing three layers of sound; the traditional lower channels (three front and two side surround), adding front and surround channels on the walls above the listener (at about 30°), and finally a ceiling channel (the .1 is for very low sounds, commonly referred to as the subwoofer channel). Barco's documentation suggests that this creates ambience around and above the listener, providing an immersive experience, rather than discrete sounds coming from pinpoint locations.
The system takes advantage of the fact that Digital Cinema Projection systems are designed to support up to 16 channels of sound, so if a movie is encoded with the sound to fill 11 channels, viewers will experience them in the Auro 11.1-equipped theater. From what the documentation says, an audio processor must be installed on the projection system in the theater, and movies must be encoded with the Auro Encoder to make the magic happen.
Last year, Dreamworks Animation announced that it would make fifteen movies with Auro-compatible sound mixes, and the upcoming release of The Croods is one of those. Disney's Oz The Great and Powerful is currently playing in theaters, and is encoded with Auro 11.1, according to Barco's web site.
Unfortunately, none of the 4,500+ theaters that we provide showtimes for are advertising the Auro 11.1 system in their showtimes. Even a quick look on some of the theaters' official web sites did not yield any confirmation of the Auro sound format for the movie. Since this installation is a first for Marcus Theatres, there's no way to know how/if the Gurnee Cinema will advertise the availability of Auro 11.1 sound for the movies playing in the new UltraScreen when it opens.
Source: Marcus Theatres Press Release, Barco Auro 11.1 web site
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