Wednesday, Nov 07 2012 04:21 PM

Bakersfield theater gets latest visual technology for 'Hobbit'

BY STEFANI DIAS Californian assistant lifestyles editor sdias@bakersfield.com

Although many moviegoers are eager to return to Middle Earth next month for "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," most screenings of the film will not feature the uber-clear, lifelike visual format filmmaker Peter Jackson intended. But there's no need to launch an epic quest for a theater that does: Edwards Cinema at The Marketplace will offer the new 48-frames-per-second technology.

"There are a large number of people excited to see what Peter Jackson is up to with the new format with early anticipation at a high level for the HFR 3D presentations," Richard Grover, director of marketing and communications for Regal Entertainment Group, wrote in an email. "In working with the studio (Warner Bros.), Regal will offer the HFR 3D format in 97 theatres across the country."

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Tickets for "The Hobbit" HFR 3D screenings (as well as 2D and 3D) starting Dec. 13 and the "Lord of the Rings" marathon on Dec. 8 are available now at Edwards Cinema (9000 Ming Ave., 663-3042) or on fandango.com.

Grover did not clarify why the Bakersfield location is one of theaters screening the film in the new High Frame Rate 3D (HFR 3D) format.

The format may give Edwards the edge locally among cinephiles, as it's currently the only local theater guaranteed to offer HFR 3D when "The Hobbit" begins Dec. 13. (Managers at Reading and Maya said they could not confirm if their theaters will offer the format.)

Since the 1920s, movies have been filmed and screened at a standard rate of 24 frames per second. Frame rate refers to the number of images (frames) displayed by a projector in one second. In a first for a major film, Jackson filmed "The Hobbit" at twice the standard frame rate, which more closely replicates what is seen by the human eye. The director has said the new speed gives the "illusion of real life, where movement feels smoother, and you're not dealing with strobing."

Footage of the film at 48 fps debuted in April at CinemaCon, a movie industry trade show in Las Vegas. Response was mixed, with many saying the crystal clear shots looked hyper-realistic.

Edwards general manager Herman Mil said he has yet to see any HFR 3D footage but will in the coming weeks.

"We are having to have a software upgrade to accommodate that format. We'll have something from the marketing department that will help us explain the difference (to customers). And they will be sending us some test (footage to view)."

For the opening of "The Hobbit," Mil said the theater will dedicate more screens to the film so that it can be shown in three formats.

(For those who can't get enough Middle Earth magic, the theater will host a "Lord of the Rings" trilogy marathon, featuring the director's cut of all three films, on Saturday, Dec. 8.)

With the upgrades, Edwards would be prepared to screen the next two "Hobbit" installments in HFR 3D, although Mil could not confirm if that is a lock. "It's a corporate decision."

Regardless of the future, Mil said he was happy to be at the forefront of the new format.

"Anything to add (for customers). It's a plus."

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