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Grand 18 takes it to the IMAX

by Mark Burger

Whether movies are getting better is a point of debate, but there’s no doubt that movies are getting bigger — and there’s nothing bigger than IMAX.

Last Wednesday, Southern Theatres Grand 18 in Winston-Salem (5601 University Parkway) unveiled its new IMAX screen, the first one in the Piedmont Triad region. June 29 was thus designated Grand IMAX Day by official proclamation from the city of Winston-Salem.

The proclamation was delivered by Vivian Burke, Mayor Pro Tem and city council member from Winston-Salem’s Northeast Ward. Although such a proclamation is largely ceremonial, she emphasized that every council member was in support of it.

Burke’s duties preclude her from seeing many movies — “although I did see Jumping the Broom here at the Grand,” she said — but she is a passionate advocate of bringing business into the region without disrupting the neighborhood ambiance that she feels is indicative of the city. One complements the other. The new IMAX theater is, she said, is a quintessential example.

“I see this area is being productive… a friendly combination of neighbors and business,” she said. “There are so many things we can say have happened. We’re working very hard to build incentives and encourage development.”

After all, she reasoned, “money talks.” “This is a ‘Grand’ day for Winston-Salem,” she said before reading the proclamation to members of the local media and invited guests. “All eight elected officials are very excited by all of this, and we’re grateful. You make us very happy.”

A full day’s worth of events included a presentation of a $1,000 check to local Ronald McDonald House Charities by Lisa Logan, the general manager of the Grand 18, as well as contests, a display of General Motors vehicles sponsored by Modern Chevrolet, and a live evening broadcast by WVBZ (100.3 FM) radio from the theater.

According to Logan, the general manager of the Grand 18, Southern Theatres’ decision to construct an IMAX screen there was decided upon only a few months ago. Once it a breakneck pace so that it would be up and running in time for the summer movie season. Construction didn’t interfere with the theater’s day-to-day operations and, said Logan, went about as smoothly as possible.

The first IMAX films tended to be documentaries, including the self-explanatory 1991 concert film Rolling Stones: Live at the Max and Space Station 3-D (2002), and exploration of the construction of the international space station. The latter film was screened for invited guests at the Grand 18 last Wednesday, after which the IMAX theater began showing the regular run of Michael Bay’s big-budget sequel, Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

Many IMAX documentaries were grossing upwards of $100 million, which (naturally) inspired Hollywood studios to try their hand. Such large-scale films as Polar Express (2004), Batman Begins (2005), Superman Returns (2006), The Dark Knight (2008) and James Cameron’s Avatar (2009) were released simultaneously in regular and IMAX formats, and all proved financially successful.

Ronald Krueger II, COO of Southern Theatres, LLC, said in a statement. “We’re very excited to introduce the world-famous IMAX brand to our guests at the Grand 18 Winston-Salem, and we’re looking forward to opening with the special early engagement of Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Audiences will be able to see it here first!” Despite some withering reviews — which it shared with its predecessors — Transformers: Dark of the Moon enjoyed a record-breaking opening, grossing over $156 million in its first five days of release. The next big IMAX movie due this summer is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, the concluding chapter of the wildly popular screen franchise based on JK Rowling’s equally popular series of books. Potter opens July 15 and is widely expected to be another box-office bonanza. Other upcoming films that will be released in the IMAX format include The Adventures of Tintin and Puss in Boots.

The Grand IMAX theater seats over 340 patrons, boasts a screen size of approximately 60’ by 30’, and can show films in regular IMAX and IMAX 3-D. There will be an additional $5.50 ticket charge added to all IMAX features. The IMAX theater is also available for rentals.

For advance tickets or more information, call 336.661.1225 or check out www.thegrandtheatre.com/IMAX.

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