ScreenX Marks the Spot at Irvine Spectrum

Theater and film still photos courtesy of ScreenX and Warner Bros.

The summer blockbuster The Meg continues a string of recent movies that are joint American and Chinese productions, but the Asian influence extends beyond what is onscreen to the actual screen itself.

With a 7 p.m. Aug. 16 showing of The Meg, Regal’s Edwards Irvine Spectrum 21 became the fifth American moviehouse to host ScreenX, a technology developed by the largest multiplex cinema chain in South Korea to project films not only onto traditional big screens, but also the walls next to them.

Has a movie’s story ever swallowed you up? The idea behind ScreenX is to make that feeling even more literal, creating an immersive viewing experience that has the moviegoer seemingly dropped into the action.

I found ScreenX effective during a special media preview of The Meg at the Spectrum. The popcorn movie’s conceit is a cloudy area exists in the ocean off the Far East that oceanographers assume is the sea’s floor but is actually a layer that, once penetrated, leads to an even deeper underwater world filled with unknown creatures. Among them is a 75-foot-long prehistoric Megalodon shark—or “The Meg.”

Whenever the movie ventures into the Meg’s stomping grounds, the screen widens to include the two sidewalls thanks to the ScreenX technology owned by the Seoul-based CJ Group, which separated from Samsung in the 1990s and now has multiple businesses in the food, food-service, media, entertainment, home-shopping, pharmaceutical, biotechnological and logistics industries.

The conglomerate’s CJ CGV is the fifth-largest cinema chain in the world, with 3,412 screens in 455 locations around the planet, including CGV Cinemas in Buena Park, which in January 2017 became the company’s second spot in the U.S. (CGV Cinemas LA in Los Angeles was the first, opening in July 2010.)

Having previously developed 4DX, which pairs action movies with motion-activated seats and such special effects as fog, snow, wind, rain, scents, lightning and vibration, CJ CGV in 2012 introduced ScreenX at some of its 149 locations in South Korea. Irvine Spectrum recently became the fifth U.S. theater with ScreenX, and Regal has plans to add another 100 to some of its American and European locations. ScreenX is also available at the LA and Buena Park CGV Cinemas. 

Regal views ScreenX as another enticement to get potential moviegoers off their couches facing home-entertainment systems. “We expect fans who experience ScreenX to come back again and again,” says Ken Thewes, Regal’s chief marketing officer.

I suspect he may be onto something. Then again, at the very same Irvine Spectrum location, before old man Jim Edwards sold his chain to Regal, I put on special glasses to see a 40-minute narrative feature about a postal-service aviator in 3D on the massive IMAX screen. I was convinced that would be the future of moviegoing, as soon as someone figured out a cost-effective way to make two-hour 3D pictures.

That had not happened years later, when I went to the luxury-movie chain theater at GardenWalk in Anaheim (what was it called again?) to sit in a 4DX seat for the first time. No, I thought to myself, that was the future of moviegoing. However, after telling friends and loved ones that they should shell out the extra 10 bucks for the 4DX experience, I never saw another movie that way again.

ScreenX adds about another $5 to your theater ticket, which is about the cost of one popcorn kernel stuck to the lobby floor. But trust me this time: ScreenX is the future of moviegoing. Have I ever steered you wrong?

The Meg, meanwhile, is reminiscent of those old Japanese B-movies whose plots use ridiculous “science” to explain the sudden unleashing of a giant monster like Godzilla, Megalon or Nissan’s Titan XD pickup truck. There is much macho mugging and action-movie one-liners delivered by star Jason Statham, who hits the bottle after leading an underwater rescue mission that ends in tragedy but is brought out of retirement because he is the only man who can save the day from a new threat.

Hollywood demands a love interest, and Chinese financiers demand story threads that appeal to Mainland audiences, so we get The Meg’s location and love interest (Chinese actress Li Bingbing).

Everything is so by the numbers that the false resolutions are as obvious as the movie’s conclusion. But there is actual intended humor in the final act’s Jaws-esque beach scenes.

There are worse places than movie theaters to duck into to beat the unrelenting summer heat, and . . . WHOA! LOOK AT THE WALLS!

The Meg is shown three times daily and Ant-Man and the Wasp once daily in ScreenX at Edwards Irvine Spectrum. $16.70-$19.70.

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