In 2012, two movie theaters in Bradley County engaged in a bout of technological one-upmanship. Ultimately, the victor was local cinephiles, who now can see the latest blockbusters on an even grander scale.
Minnesota-based United Entertainment Corp. invested heavily last January in a high-definition upgrade to the projectors at Cleveland UEC Theatres 14, 137 Pleasant Grove Road SW. The per-projector cost was about $65,000, for a final tab of close to $1 million, according to Chattanooga Times Free Press archives.
The upgrade followed hot on the heels of the late 2011 opening of a new 12-screen theater by Carmike Cinemas in Bradley Square Mall, 200 Paul Huff Parkway. There, for a small ticketing upcharge, moviegoers can enjoy the new theater's "BigD experience" in a room equipped with higher-resolution projection, luxury seating and a 78-foot-wide, 35-foot-tall screen.
Nationally, Carmike has opened only 16 BigD screens, and Cleveland's is the second in the Chattanooga area, following the opening earlier in 2011 of a BigD screen at the Carmike Majestic 12, 311 Broad St.
The Majestic's large-format, BigD screen was the latest bullet on a long list of the theater's innovations. When it opened in late 2009, the Majestic also offered the area's only VIP experience in its Ovation Room, which features dining and drink service and reclinerlike seats. Majestic also was the nation's first theater to receive energy-efficient certification by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.
Although the BigD screen is a larger format than traditional cinema screens, it doesn't quite meet the specifications of Image Maximum - or Imax - theaters, which boast even bigger screens, wider aspect ratios and bone-rattling sound systems.
As of September 2012, the Imax Corp. listed 689 theaters with Imax screens around the world. Two of them are in Chattanooga.
In late 2010, Rave Motion Pictures converted one of the 18 screens at its East Ridge location, 5080 South Terrace, to meet Imax audio/visual specifications. Late last year, Carmike Cinemas Inc. purchased the Rave theater as part of a $19 million national deal, according to news archives.
The oldest and largest Imax theater in the area is the Tennessee Aquarium Imax 3D Theater, 201 Chestnut St., which opened in the mid-'90s. Along with a regular slate of documentary films, the theater's 89-foot-wide, 66-foot-tall screen also shows the occasional feature film.
Contact staff writer Casey Phillips at email@example.com or 423-757-6205.