By Avery Wood
The Mary Pickford Theater in Cathedral City, which came under new ownership less than a year ago, has recently made a series of changes to set itself apart from the other movie theaters in the valley, according to owner Damon Rubio. “We’ve instituted a whole ray of changes like the recliner seating; we’ve brought in our D-Box motion chairs, which is a really cool motion experience; we have our Barco Escape, which is a three screen immersive experience… we have the café, which serves beer and wine; new paint; new carpet; new restrooms… the restrooms are gorgeous,” said Rubio.
The renovations were made in conjunction with the addition of film-related events, most notably the upcoming Viewpoints Film Festival that begins on May 12. The festival was created and cultivated by Barco in order to display the potential of their three screen format. The company held a contest in which independent filmmakers were asked to create films optimized for the Barco Escape format. “We have three projectors that project onto a really wide screen that comes not just in front of you but on the sides of you also. You get this… stunning visual effect that immerses you into the picture. They can also do really cool things like they can have three different action scenes going on. So you can have the point of view of the character, but then you can have the point of view… from outside of the character or above the character. It’s really neat the way that some of these directors are doing things,” Rubio says. “They’re trying to show creative people in Hollywood how this technology can be used for storytelling.”
Tickets to the film festival are $6 and include an hour-long series of short films. In addition, anyone who buys a ticket to the first program on Friday, May 12 receives complementary tickets to the second program on Friday, May 19, which includes an entirely different set of films.
Another experience enhancing feature that the theater has installed is D-Box seating. “The D-Box chairs are really unique. There are only maybe 150 theatres in the world that have them and… it’s a motion chair experience,” Rubio explains. “When you sit in a D-Box chair… you have a motion effects artist that creates a motion track that is perfectly in sync with the action on the screen. So let’s say you see the Fast and the Furious in D-Box. When the car turns right, your chair will turn right a little bit… it’s really cool, it’s immersive, it draws you into the experience. It’s not like a carnival ride. It’s not really throwing you around through the whole movie. It’s only there when the motion actually needs to be there on screen… There’d be no reason to watch Driving Miss Daisy in D-Box… But something like Guardians of the Galaxy, which opens next week… that’ll be an amazing experience. Pretty much any of your big summer blockbusters will be offered in D-Box.”
The theater has also begun a series of events that they’re calling Pickford Presents, in which people who worked on the film come to the theater to do a Q&A session with the viewers. Most recently they hosted two stuntmen from The Fate of the Furious and three of the cast members from Phoenix Forgotten. “They’re really cool events, they’re moderated by… a really good moderator who asks intelligent questions of the people and it’s… another way for people who love film to come out and understand a little bit more of what it takes to make a film from the different viewpoints… we’ve had a director, we’ve had a screen writer, we’ve had actors and actresses, we’ve had stuntmen… it’s really all these different people who are involved… and they’re able to come out and share their experiences and share their process,” Rubio says.
According to him, events such as these are rare for movie theatres. “We’re doing it here because… part of our mission is about creating this entertainment experience and we have a real passion and love for movies and we kind of want to blend our passion and love for movies with creating more entertainment value,” he says, pointing out that these offerings are added to the movie experience at no extra cost to the viewer.
The theatre also has a deal with Crunchyroll, a popular anime distributor, for quarterly exclusive theatrical releases of films. ““I was very impressed with our first one, at the number of people that we had turn out for it considering it was one night only,” Rubio says.
The next film that will be shown on the Barco Escape screens is The Recall, which premiers in June and stars Wesley Snipes. “That film will be a really really fun experience, especially for folks who remember the heyday of 80’s action-comedy, this’ll be great,” Rubio says, adding that he is hoping to do a Pickford Presents event for that film.
Tickets to the Viewpoints film festival can be purchased at dplaceentertainment.com.