Monday, March 23, 2009

A truly special effect

I went to see "Raiders of the Lost Ark", presented by Tampa Theatre's Sunset Cinema program last Saturday night at River Tower Park. As one of the theatre's highest profile community outreach programs, it's basically impossible to find anything not to like about Sunset Cinema. Admission is free, the weather is beautiful. You bring your own food, drinks, blankets, chairs, footballs and Frisbees or whatever and you basically have everything that made going to the drive-in so much fun. You can even bring dogs. They also showcase great movies. In the case of "Raiders...", I'm sure I've seen it over 100 times at this point, more than any movie I've ever seen, but I'll still watch it every time I get a chance.
They show the movies using a rear screen projector on a huge inflatable screen. Here are pictures of it being blown up (if you scroll down slowly, you can kind of get the time lapse effect)

Glitches are an essential component of the drive-in experience. I think people almost looked forward to a little spontaneous intermission as an opportunity to honk the horn and then run to the concession stand. At our drive-in back in Michigan, it seemed like the film would break at least once every time. The projectionist would usually play the radio broadcast of the White Sox game over the speakers while he fixed the break and dad would go get pizza. Of course, with the Tampa Theatre being all grand and spectacular, you know they just had to come up with a grand and spectacular glitch.
It was a pretty windy night, with heavy gusts occasionally ripping through the park and chilling the air. During the scene where Indy is in the map room using the Staff of Ra to find the location of the Well of Souls (if you've seen the movie at least 10 times, you know what I'm talking about; if not, there's no hope for you), the screen buckled, the picture distorted and slowly started to lean backwards and toppled over. Rather than be upset, the crowd let out a huge cheer as it crashed to the ground.
As far as glitches go, this one didn't clear out the crowd like the time the sprinklers came on just as the credits started to roll after they showed "The Wizard of Oz" at Cotanchobee Park (yeah, that happened) but it was more impressive because of the sheer spectacle of it. It only took about 15 minutes to get the screen back upright again, eliciting more cheers from the crowd.
I hope they plan to show "The Dark Knight" at that location and figure out a way to get the thousands of bats that live in the Sulphur Springs water tower to make an appearance at some point...and I hope I'm there to see it.

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