September 22, 2012

Ridley Scott Talks RED EPIC and Explains How We Can Save the Theatrical Experience

Digital technology is racing to replace celluloid in the theatrical space at an incredible pace. With many of the top professionals in the industry moving solely to digital, the landscape is changing drastically. Just recently we had one of the more respected cinematographers working today, Roger Deakins, talking about his experience using the Arri Alexa. Now, Ridley Scott gives us a little bit about his experience working with the RED EPIC in 3D and also explains how we can get people back into movie theaters:

Often bigger Hollywood movies are the ones that get the huge screen (IMAX) treatment, but what's interesting is that even smaller movies can benefit from a giant screen. This is something that has been mentioned about Christopher Nolan's Batman films that have used IMAX extensively. Small, quiet moments are amplified when a face is 100 feet tall. While not quite RED's intention, there is something to be said for extremely high resolution in that case, as humans are very sensitive to small movements in a person's face. I generally prefer a digital image that feels closer to film without the "side effects" of silver halides and celluloid, and that usually means sharp without being "too sharp." Digital also has the ability to reach into the darker areas of an image like we've never been seen before, and it lets DPs light in a far more realistic way -- especially since the cameras are so sensitive to light.

While a partial advertisement for RED, the video above played before Loom at NAB 2012. Watching Loom on RED's 3D projector -- which utilizes lasers to achieve a truer frame rate without utilizing triple flashing -- was the least distracting 3D experience I've ever had. 3D may be losing favor among consumers, but there have been only a few films over the last few years that have really tried to take advantage of the format as a storytelling tool. Of course, the biggest takeaway from the video is that Ridley doesn't necessarily advocate 3D as a way to get people back into the theater, but better stories first and foremost, and then pristine picture quality and excellent audio. There's no question we can all strive to make our stories better, and the digital camera is simply another tool to help facilitate that.

Where do you guys prefer to watch movies? Would the theatrical experience be improved for you with much higher resolutions and bigger screens?

Link: Ridley Scott -- RED Digital Cinema -- Vimeo

Your Comment

71 Comments

"which is capable of 24fps in both eyes, rather than the 12fps in both eyes that many digital systems utilise"

Incorrect. Current projection systems can run in 2K at at least 24fps, many 4K projectors and some 2K ones can run in 2K at 48fps AKA how some will be showing The Hobbit. Currently only RED's projector does 4K at 48 though, which is (brightness of the laser projection aside) one of the big deals about it.

Two points: 1. I thought Dredd was better for use of 3D than Prometheus, a lot more use of depth as apposed to the subtle 'what am I paying a surcharge for?' 3D which I've decided I'm not a big fan of (see also: Spiderman).

2. I'm sold on Alexa altering seeing the footage for Skyfall projected in IMAX. Woah. Deakins does it again. Not sure you even need Epic's resolution for IMAX, just clean digital.

September 22, 2012

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Will S

You don't need Red for Imax 3d resolution. It's only a stacked 2k projector.

Riddley can have his 50 foot screen. I'll save 15 bucks, stay home, and enjoy Breaking Bad.

September 22, 2012

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Casey

Sorry, I've been called out on this before, and I've done my research, most of them don't. 3D IMAX with dual projectors are really the only place you're going to find what I'm talking about, and that's both eyes getting the same frame rate.

Maybe it's a misunderstanding in the language, but the way most 3D projectors arrive at the full image is by flashing right and left eye, giving only half the available frame rate to each eye. There are Sony 4K projectors technically able to do a 2K in both eyes at the full frame rate, but almost all theaters are not doing it that way.

RED's projector is a big deal because it does those frame rates in both eyes at the same time, and from personal experience, it was the least nauseating time I've had watching 3D.

September 22, 2012

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Joe Marine
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You're mixing up frame rate with resolution. All 3D systems run at 24 fps, but the resolution is split between left eye and right eye. If the movie ran at 12 fps, your persistence of vision wouldn't allow you to be immersed in it.

The big deal with Red's 3D is that they do 4K resolution in each eye, not 2K per eye (splitting the resolution). Frame rate is 24 fps no matter what.

September 22, 2012

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RealD runs on projectors at 144 frames per second - most digital projectors do, which is why there are theoretically 10,000 projectors in the US that could do 48 frames per second.

It's a single lens system that uses a 'z screen' which is an electronic switch polarised material that alternates 72 times a second.

So on 24P movies, you're getting each 1/24th 3 times for each eye = 6 frames per 24th of a second. This is called 'flashing', which is designed to eliminate ghosting, which is an ongoing problem with digital (it may be for other reasons too but I don't know).

September 22, 2012

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Brett

Right, more frames, but the frames are unchanging within each second, and so you're still getting half the information you started with per eye.

September 22, 2012

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Joe Marine
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How are you arriving at the 12 figure?

Each eye gets a picture every 24th/48th, repeated 3 or 2 times respectively (in the case of Real D). It doesn't mean that a given eye is deprived of a picture every 12th of a second (i.e. skipping).

The limitation is that only one eye can present on the screen at a given moment. I don't know if there's two lenses on the RED one or a Z-screen.

The technology coming down the line from Showscan Digital should blow all this out of the water anyway.

September 23, 2012

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Brett

Nice one Brett, you've described it much more accurately than I did! (Been a while since I read the RealD literature.)

But yeah, left and right simultaneous is really where we should be, it's fair enough that you should say that's the main point, Joe. RealD's solution is clever, but I think now that people are becoming more discerning (us filmmakers, at least) it's showing itself as a bit of a technological bolt on until new projection technology arrives.

Very jealous that you got to see Loom in 3D BTW!

September 23, 2012

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Will S

All right, clearly I don't understand 3D as I thought I did. Maybe I'm referring to temporal resolution, yes. Either way, I don't like any of it!

September 23, 2012

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Joe Marine
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Flashing isn't a problem with digital...it's a problem with persistence of vision. 24fps film projectors have a fan blade to chop each individual frame an additional 2-3 times because 72fps just takes too much light and costs way too much.

I'm afraid that Douglass Trumbull's decision to drop down to 48fps from 60fps like his old system just isn't enough...at least for my eyes, and a lot of the people who've been complaining about The Hobbit footage.

October 1, 2012

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Daniel Mimura

Joe, according to this stat heavy post on the lack of consumer interest for in-home 3D viewing, up to 6% of viewers cannot watch 3D without nausea. I can't say how dependent on the projection technology this number will remain. Additionally, "in a phone survey last November of 1,300 Americans who had seen 3-D TV, Leichtman Research Group found that 38 percent rated it poorly at 3 or below on a scale of 10. That's twice as many as rated it excellently, at 8 or higher." http://tinyurl.com/92zqjah

September 28, 2012

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David

It just saddens me that this guy made Prometheus as bad as it was.
Great interview tho. Thanks Joe.
I enjoy the theatrical experience but my 60" sharp has me wating for blu-ray releases, instead. I don't think a lot has to do with picture quality, Hollywood keeps churning out crap movies left and right not worthy of getting dressed, filling up the gas tank, watching the movie and dinner afterwards.

September 22, 2012

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VINCEGORTHO

I think that's a little dramatic, the movie had a few script problems more than anything else. The problem is movies aren't actually 4K yet on our 4K projectors. That needs to change. Seeing Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in 4K on a large screen with proper brightness (meaning no 3D lens still stuck on it), was the most satisfying movie experience I've ever had. Plus it was at the Alamo - they kick you out for texting.

September 22, 2012

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Joe Marine
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A few problems? Poor characters. Terrible b-movie horror clinches, you'll knock yourself silly from ace-palming.

September 22, 2012

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vinceGortho

I think us film geeks aside most people don't know and more importantly don't care if its film, 4k, 2k, or HD as long as the story sucks them in. Just look at paranormal activity and how many people got off their couch to go see that. That's where I agree with Ridley Scott that we need better stories. I just wish he had taken his own advice. It always blows me away when in a movie where so much attention is given to the technical side, where hundreds of people spend months, even years making this visual spectacle, and nobody looks at the script and is allowed to say "wait, seriously... That makes no fucking sense," You can create the most mind blowing visuals that nobody has seen before and yet you can't step back to look at the story, look at the basic storytelling principles which have been preached since Aristotle over two thousand years ago.. and realize you're breaking a lot of rules and not in a good way at all. There really is no excuse for that.

September 22, 2012

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Marko

My thoughts exactly.
RED. canon. ARRI. BMCC, can all be packed on a rocket and blasted in to the sun, sending us back to the days of celluloid, I don't care. I want good stories.
Maybe Hollywood itself is in need of a remake?

September 22, 2012

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VINCEGORTHO

Face*-palming.

September 22, 2012

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VINCEGORTHO

And I think there is a balance between entertainment and art it just seems that most of it is being done in TV right now.

September 22, 2012

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Marko

the girl with the dragon tattoo???

September 23, 2012

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Al

First narrative film shot and projected nationwide in 4K so far.

September 23, 2012

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Joe Marine
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Just to clarify: You mean shot and projected in 4K digital, right? Because if you saying that film that has been scanned at 4K and is projected at 4K does not count as "4K" then we are in much more controversial territory.

September 26, 2012

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Yes - shot, finished, and projected in 4K.

September 26, 2012

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Joe Marine
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Damn, I miss the Alamo since moving to Seattle. At least I've got the Cinerama here in Seattle.

The Alamo is one of the few theaters that takes off the polarizer. That's something Regal won't do, so I won't see their movies anymore (I've talked to a couple different general managers). It's ironic to me that they had those ads where they would blow up the little tv screen like you were somehow getting an inferior experience---it was much brighter at home and the content at the time was often the same resolution...(and the smaller screen is countered with a closer viewing distance.). Now with more 4k material and projectors, it's changing, but a home theater can be a better experience that a theater that doesn't care. This is what needs to change to get people out to the theaters.

Well, that and 2D. A lot of the big movies are 3D and the 2D version will be only playing on smaller screens, from the chains that don't care where home is better... So even though 3D has (once again, like in the '50's) been brought out to give a better than home experience, it's also the very thing that often keeps me home sometimes.

October 1, 2012

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Daniel Mimura

Yep, I try to avoid major films at a Showcase theater near my home since they also leave on the polarizer. It makes the 2D films unbelievably dim. What's interesting though, is that they have a "Cine Art" section where they show indie films and films that haven't gotten a wide release, and the projection on those particular screens is immaculate! That's because the screen brightness is proper, they don't leave on the polarizer, and those screens have stadium seating so you always have a good view and good sound.

October 1, 2012

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Joe Marine
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Nice.

October 1, 2012

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Daniel Mimura

I saw prometheus on a flight from germany to LA the other week and it sucked so much dick. Its a shame that the guy that did BLADE RUNNER made such an awful cliche ass movie like that. Well, I guess my expectations were too high, I went in thinking it would be the next "2001". Boy, was I wrong.

September 23, 2012

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john jeffreys

the scene with the girl getting her stomach cut open was kinda hot, I guess.

September 23, 2012

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john jeffreys

I think the story had potential to be the 2001 of our time. Such an interesting story reducing the alien to a biological weapon. Unfortunately it answers no questions. The space jockey could of at least said a few words before ripping davids head off.lol.

September 23, 2012

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VINCEGORTHO

You mean the Engineer? He did talk before attacking everyone but unfortunately it was cut. It's available as the deleted scene in the upcoming bluray release. It's also on the net as well.

October 3, 2012

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Usman

I'm sure you were able to fully enjoy it on that massive screen with great sound and the haunting drone of the plane engine.

September 24, 2012

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Felipe

Tell that moron in the 7th row back that his texting has just suspended my suspension of disbelief. That might get me back to the movie theaters, otherwise it's a wasted opportunity at an experience.

September 22, 2012

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David

+1

September 22, 2012

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JB

+2

September 22, 2012

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VINCEGORTHO

A better solution. Move to Portland, Oregon where we've got about a dozen second-run theater pubs (many are historical buildings) for $3-$4 a flick, and they serve craft beer, local pizza, and also typical movie fare. And many (also) show revival films. I saw THX1138, Top Gun, Jurassic Park, Raiders of the Lost, The Shining, and others. When theaters stop charging $10-$15 per ticket, they'll get more customers. Nice TVs are $500-$1,000 so why would people pay $20 (ticket, gas, grub) for a two-hour movie? Studios and theaters need to adapt to survive, instead of trying to force the same old system. I get that it worked for 50+ years and it's tough to overhaul the system, but it's not going to get any easier by just sitting and spin. People love movies and the theater experience. Lower the prices, make better movies, and you'll see more customers. It's not as complicated as it's being made out to be. I think most of us agree that we'd love to visit the theater more...if it were economical and the movies were better.

September 22, 2012

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Allan

Small theatres are awesome!

Just drove forty miles to watch the Good the Bad and the Ugly at Quentin Tarantino's New Beverly theatre. Even though I have it sitting four feet away from my couch in my collection, it was well worth seeing it on a super 35mm print.

To me, it feels as if the upgrades to filmmaking technology is superceding the enjoyment of the movie watching experience. HI DEF!!! 3D!!! 5K AT 60 FRAMES PER SECOND!!!! ALL IN YOUR FACE REALISM-ISM-ISM-ISM!!!!! ........ btw 12% on rotten tomatoes.

September 22, 2012

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VINCEGORTHO

Interesting that you mention Rotten Tomatoes, as that movie you had so many problems with has a 73% positive.

As far as movies getting worse, this a myth that just won't go away because we are nostalgic for old films - but not just any old films - the old films that have stood the test of time. The bad movies are lost to time, and there were far more of those back in the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s than there are now.

For example, on IMDb's top 250, 111 of those films are from 1990 and beyond - that's 44.4%, almost half. These are the numbers as follows:

2010s - 15
2000s - 54
1990s - 42
1980s - 30
1970s - 23
1960s - 25
1950s - 32
1940s - 16
1930s - 10

IMDb's list is obviously not a final word on anything, but it does take into account many different factors, rather than just the common opinion around these parts. There are so many more lower budget films that have been made that would never have been made even 10 years ago. Sure with more quantity comes quite a few that are of a lower quality, but are movies getting worse, or is it just in vogue to say so?

September 22, 2012

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Joe Marine
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I totally agree! I think it's important as filmmakers to go see some bad movies once in a while...and I mean *bad* movies. Especially from other time periods. I think a lot of people take all the craft that goes into mainstream films for granted, and if you don't realize how much work it takes it's going to be hard to make something better. Especially when it comes to story and script...most mainstream movies have a certain level of quality, but you're not really aware of it until you watch movies that completely screw it up.

If you have Netflix Instant, that's an excellent place to start...I love just trolling around finding turd gems when I'm bored.

September 23, 2012

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Gabe

Wow. it is 73%
Movie was so terrible in my 27% opinion, i guess. Lol.
They accomplished the visual goal, though.

I can't see how 4K will make the movies better? Not trying to put it down. But only speaking for myself, I'll avoid it if it makes the ticket price go up and just wait for 4K home theatre to become affordable.

Girl with the Dragon Tatoo???

I can't talk. My favorite recent film is Red State. Plenty of people loathed it.

September 23, 2012

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VINCEGORTHO

Well it's not just the 4K, it's bigger screens, plus proper brightness of the projection without 3D lenses stuck on them. It wasn't quite the clarity of the IMAX scenes in The Dark Knight, but it was extremely clear. At the very least, projection has gotten much worse because we're watching darkened 2D projections which have the 3D lenses still stuck on them (another reason 3D should just go away, even if it has been used in interesting ways a few times). Ticket prices should not change with 4K - Girl with the Dragon Tattoo did not cost more. In fact, 4K projection is actually cheaper since it's a digital print versus a film print costing thousands of dollars.

September 23, 2012

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Joe Marine
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Joe, I think that's avery interesting point, but I think it's tricky to use the imdb top 250 as any kind of definitive guide for anything. For starters if you look at the top 50 of that list, only three of those are foreign. And a lot of the most amazing films are either low on the list or not present at all simply because they're foreign and not as well known. I understand it's very subjective to say what's good and what's not but it would be really depressing that in over a hundred years of world cinema that Return of the King, Star Trek, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Born Ultimatum truly fall into the category of 250 best films ever made. I mean come on...
I think the simple fact is that less people are going to the theater because of netflix, big TVs, blu rays, etc, and therefore studios have to keep producing movies that are going to be slam dunks. They don't have the luxury to make a 20, or 40, or 60 million dollar gamble on something people might or might not come to see. That's why we're seeing so many sequels or remakes, or adaptations because their logic is that people for the most part will go see something that's similar rather than take a chance on something they've never heard of before. Just look at this...
http://www.shortoftheweek.com/2012/01/05/has-hollywood-lost-its-way/

September 23, 2012

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Marko

While I agree that movies aren't really getting worse - though hollywood itself won't fund the types of movies they used to - IMDB is not a great example when you think about it... It was launched in 1990 so it's no coincidence that movies that came out after that date have the most attention and reviews. As general audiences now and most will say that they like modern movies more than old movies. The fact that the majority of films on the top 250 came out after the launch of the website has little meaning in the argument.

September 24, 2012

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Felipe

Fascinating point you've made. Bad, old movies are forgotten so we tend to remember only the great movies, hence our adoration for the old days of cinema. But we're aware of all the current movies, both good and bad, so we tend to perceive the current state of cinema as being bad. I think of 80s and 90s movies as being pretty good, but that's likely because I'm only remembering the ones I loved as a kid. Yet I look at the movies in theaters now and I'm appalled. Thanks for the great perspective.

September 25, 2012

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Allan

@Allan A year or so ago a theater near me dug out their copy of Jurassic Park they still had and did a special showing...they also played the trailers they got with it, and it was really interesting how few of them I recognized. So many of those movies completely dropped off the radar, it was a good wake up call that things haven't really changed as much as we think.

September 27, 2012

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Gabe

No...It is true they did make better movies before 1960.
But only because they just put so many more movies into production back then.
When TV came in the 50's it knocked the theatres for a loop. And now the internet
and big screen TV's have about finished the job. So even fewer movies will go
into production....and so even fewer Good movies will be made.

Only reason IMDB list skews to modern movies is because people are totally
unaware of the good old ones...other than maybe Casablanca and Wizard of Oz.

September 26, 2012

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sammy

Complete idiocy to cite IMDB's list as an proof of anything. I'm sure most of the people who watched Wizard of Oz in its first run in 1939 aren't surfing the web these days and logging into IMDB let alone the generation that saw On The Waterfront in theaters in the 50's. Today, you'll get more fans of Resident Evil logging into IMDB than people who were alive to see the How Green is My Valley in its first run.

In short it doesn't take a sub genius to deduce that there are fewer people alive who were fans of older movies than newer ones, hence the lower standing overall in IMDB.

December 31, 2012

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Tim Naylor

How people enjoy those theatre experiences where they serve beer and food is beyond me. The ones here in Chicago are semi-sloped seating in chairs around tables where you crane your neck to watch a film for two hours. Servers come and go, whispering to ask you questions and occasionally blocking your view. People chew and sip loudly and try to whisper to each other, the jerks text, and all of the miscellaneous food scents drift by distractingly.

That, for sure, is not a theatrical experience. I don't want to feel like I'm in someone's living room with the lights turned low and no possible way to pause the film. Sure, this might be nice if you've seen the film a half-dozen times already, but even then, my goal is to still get lost in the film, to immerse myself completely.

The real thing theaters need to do is get rid of the first four rows that put you six feet from the screen. This may have worked a couple decades ago, but fast cuts and putting action on the left or right third just doesn't work these days.

What will get people back to theaters aside from that? Better storytelling (they still exist!) and Dolby's Atmos.

September 23, 2012

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You're going to make me cry(I no longer live in Portland). The McMenamin brothers are my heros. And for non-McMenamin theaters, the Laurelhurst is one of my favorite places on earth!

September 23, 2012

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Joe

God bless McMinamins.

There is a McMin bar here in Seattle, but I wish they'd bring over their movie theaters...

The Fake Alamo here in Seattle (Cine Bar, created by ex-CFO of Alamo), is nowhere up to the quality and standards of those PDX theaters.

October 1, 2012

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Daniel Mimura

Did anyone notice how ridley scott is trying to combine the alien and blade runner universes? just a curious?

September 22, 2012

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Jack

Good special effects are easier to quantify than story. Expect more effects laden pyrotechnics.

September 22, 2012

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moebius22

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