By Heidi Simmons
“We love movies and we are excited about all the changes happening here,” said Damon Rubio, President of D’Place Entertainment the new company operating the Mary Pickford Theatre in Cathedral City. “Movies are a communal event and our aim is to provide the best movie-going experience in the Coachella Valley.”
With its grand lobby and 14 theaters, the Mary Pickford Theatre is the valley’s largest movie house when it comes to auditorium size and square footage. The impressive multi-story Spanish style building with its retro neon sign and mosaic-covered giant iguana fountain, creates a feeling that harkens to the late, great, ornate Hollywood movie palaces of yore, but with a big dose of California casual.
D’Place Entertainment has made it their mission to revitalize what it means to go to the movies. The Mary Pickford Theatre, exterior and interior, is undergoing a $2,000,000 renovation that includes upgrading all 14 auditoriums for an ultimate movie viewing experience.
The most significant addition to the theater is the latest innovation in movie viewing technology called “Barco Escape.” This new film format has three projectors that run simultaneously on three connecting screens, which surrounds almost half of the intimate auditorium. Images move seamlessly across the three large adjoining screens nearly filling one’s peripheral vision.
“The Barco Escape immerses movie-goers and creates a more visceral and engaging experience. You are drawn into the film,” said Rubio. “We love it and we know our clientele will as well.”
This week, the summer blockbuster “Star Trek Beyond” opens. The movie was filmed in the new three-camera format and D’Place Entertainment is the only theater here in the CV with Barco Escape. Tickets can be reserved online or at the box office now.
“Star Trek is a great franchise. People of all ages love it,” said Rubio. “It’s the perfect movie to show off the potential and just how fantastic Barco Escape looks. This format marries well with the content and is another way to really enjoy the movie. Watching “Star Trek Beyond” in Barco Escape will impact the viewer on another level. People will have a more immersive and unforgettable experience.”
Barco is a Belgium company and has been a leader in the projection business since 1934. Barco Escape is the company’s latest achievement in digital cinema projection. Barco is an acronym for Belgian American Radio Corporation. Escape is apropos as the experience takes the moviegoer away to far off places and new worlds in a more vivid manner.
There are only 18 theaters in the country that have Barco Escape equipped auditoriums. Outside the valley, the nearest is in Los Angeles.
Coming this fall, D’Place Entertainment will also have a “D-Box” theater. D-Box is a motion-simulation chair that is specifically designed to move with the action on the screen.
Each D-Box seat is motorized to create the effect of movement, which is precisely timed with the visual images. The chair will vibrate, jolt, shake and give the sensation of titling forward, back, up or down adding physical sensation to the visual experience. The seat can be deactivate if a moviegoer is ultra sensitive to motion sickness.
“The D-Box is very sophisticated. It’s not just a rocking chair that goes off now and then,” said Rubio. “Just like there are film industry sound and lighting designers, there are D-Box motion designers who artfully program the movement for every movie. It is perfectly timed to enhance the movie experience so you more fully feel the action.”
All the other D’Place Entertainment auditoriums in the Mary Pickford Theatre will have brand-new, fully reclining seats where you can lean way back with your feet up.
Moviegoers will also have the opportunity to buy tickets with reserved seating. But if spontaneity is your thing, no worries, D’Place Entertainment has 1,200 seats within their 14 auditoriums.
As movie aficionados, D’Place Entertainment certainly made the 14 screen auditorium improvements a priority, but they also have paid close attention to all the theater’s amenities that play an important part in the totality of movie going experience.
Café & Bar
Spanning over 40 feet, the D’Place Entertainment concessions and café provide gourmet treats and custom-made foods.
Besides making fresh popcorn, D’Place Entertainment makes their own cheese corn, caramel corn and kettle corn on site. Not only that, but fresh ice cream is also made at the theater along with pizza and specialty sandwiches. Of course there is favorite movie candy and concessions available, as well as numerous fresh items as posted daily on the Cinema Café menu blackboard.
When it comes to drinks, not only are there an array of favorite sodas, there is a selection of beer and wine available for those 21 years of age and up. The Cinema Café has a beer and wine menu that includes local breweries. D’Place Entertainment allows patrons to take their alcoholic beverages into the theaters.
With such an expansive lobby, D’Place Entertainment has added café tables and chairs to comfortably enjoy a meal, converse with friends or have a drink before or after a movie.
In addition to the new auditoriums, there is new paint, carpeting and remodeled bathrooms. No expense was spared in the beautifully appointed, bright and shiny, nearly hands-free, bathrooms.
The overall changes and improvements to the Mary Pickford Theatre are so carefully thought out and impressive, they not only enhance the movie-going experience, but also celebrate the movies as a special event.
For those who are young and maybe don’t know, the theater’s namesake, Mary Pickford was a famous silent movie star who became “America’s sweetheart” during the 1920s. She was last married to Buddy Rogers and like so many Hollywood elite; the two had a home here in the valley.
The theater’s address is 36850 Pickfair Street in Cathedral City, which honors Mary Pickford’s famous Los Angeles estate. Appropriately enough Pickfair Street intersects with Buddy Rogers Avenue.
The first-run theater opened May 2001 as part of Cathedral City’s revitalization program. The theater anchors the community’s downtown center that also includes a park with a bell tower, art, a whimsical fountain, City Hall and the former IMAX Theater, now Desert Cinema.
Spanning a whole city block on Hwy 111, the downtown area has surrounding buildings that were built at the same time. Some tenants include an Italian restaurant, a hair salon and a sandwich franchise.
Under the guidance of Cathedral City’s Downtown Foundation, a non-profit organization, the buildings were leased and the group hired UltraStar Cinemas to operate both Pickford and the IMAX.
When the opportunity arrived to get the theater back into the hands of its private owner, D’Place Entertainment’s Rubio along with D’Place Entertainment’s General Manager Ted Hane (both formally with UltraStar) approached the landlord.
“We already had a relationship with the owner and it was perfect timing and a perfect fit,” said Rubio. “We shared our vision for an invigorated and dynamic movie-house and the owner got it right away.” The owner of the property has had a home in the CV for years and is a general contractor by trade.
Having a general contractor as landlord has made the renovations go quickly and smoothly. Working closely with the movie-buff operators of D’Place Entertainment, they have not only transformed the auditoriums and interiors but hopefully the entire movie-going experience.
Other adjacent buildings still have available suites for more shops and restaurants, which are convenient to the theater and perfect for browsing and window-shopping before or after a movie.
The beautiful outdoor areas and ample parking at the downtown center makes the locale around the Mary Pickford Theatre very enticing for a night out at the movies. Ideally, more businesses will come to the location now that the theater is generating new life.
“The experience of going to the movies starts when a decision is made to see a movie,” said Rubio. “When a movie-goer visits our website the experience begins. It matters to us that a movie ticket can be purchased easily and the process of getting your ticket and into the theater is hassle free.”
When purchasing tickets online for D’Place Entertainment, the cost is actually “less” than at the box office.
Tickets are available to purchase at D’Place Entertainment’s easy to navigate website. Tickets can be downloaded to your smartphone so moviegoers can walk directly into the lobby and then the auditorium to find their reserved seats.
But, no worries, the box office will always sell tickets and reservations are not required. Expect an upcharge for the Barco Escape and D-Box auditoriums similar to the higher price for 3D films.
D’Place Entertainment has a new rewards program and is working on putting together movie clubs and special movie events. They are also working on a plan to better utilize Desert Cinema, the former IMAX Theater where “Tarzan” is currently showing. D’Place Entertainment also aims to do their best to fill the gap of the late art-house theater Cinémas Palme d’Or.
“We are fortunate to not have experienced the same kind of issues with obtaining studio movies and, of course, our landlord is partnering with us to make the theater a success,” said Rubio. “It’s our intention to have independent and foreign films and even moderate Q&A’s. We want to create a new home for guests who enjoyed the special screenings and events at Cinémas Palme d’Or.”
“D’Place Entertainment is here to show great movies, be a leader in the industry, and be a valued member of the community,” said Rubio. “We believe movies matter and we are excited to deliver the best movie-going experience.”