Photo by John F. Russell
Chief Plaza Theater employee Westley Thompson holds up a pair of 3-D glasses in front of a billboard for “Megamind.” The DreamWorks movie is one of several that are expected to be shown in 3-D at the downtown theater.
Steamboat Springs The old theaters at the downtown Chief Plaza Theater got a breath of fresh life with the addition of 3-D technology, even as the building is under contract to be sold and the cinema likely will be replaced by a performing arts venue after three years.
The Carmike-operated Steamboat Springs theater has used digital projection technology for years, and complex manager Leah Helme said it was an easy transition to offer the first 3-D projection system in Routt County. The system was installed just in time for a re-release of the animated “Despicable Me” in 3-D and the campy horror film “Piranha.”
Workers first installed silver screens into two of the four theaters at the Chief and then installed vibrating filters in front of the projector’s lenses and servers as part of the RealD 3-D system.
The screen installations cost about $2,500 apiece. She said she wasn’t sure how much the whole system cost but that it was paid for by Carmike management.
Tickets to films with 3-D content have a $4 surcharge, making an evening show for an adult $14 on most nights.
“There definitely have been a couple people upset with the price,” Helme said.
The corporate offices set the price, she said.
“I was hoping it would be less because it’s a little above the national average,” she said.
She said the surcharge is in place because the 3-D movies cost more for the theaters to rent, as well.
Despite that, she said “Despicable Me,” already in theaters five weeks before it was re-released in 3-D, saw a resurgence in ticket sales. “Piranha” also has sold well, Helme said, even though it’s not a typical blockbuster.
“I think people are excited to see the 3-D movie,” she said.
Piranha also has earned some high reviews for its intentionally B-movie style.
Helme said the 3-D addition is just part of an overhaul she’s started since she moved to town to take over the theater 1 1/2 years ago. Before that, the theater was almost entirely run by high school students. Although the theater still employs high school students for most positions — there is an entirely new staff this year, she said — Helme said she’s trying to improve the theater’s reputation within the constraints of the building.
The other movie theater in Steamboat, Wildhorse 6 Stadium Cinemas, has film instead of digital projectors and does not have 3-D. It does, however, have a newer building with the stadium seating. It is owned by Metropolitan Theaters.
Dale Davison, Metropolitan senior vice president of operations and development, said Friday that the theater would get two digital projectors in the fall, probably before November. Those projectors also will have 3-D capability using Master Image technology, he wrote in an e-mail.
Michael Barry has owned the Chief Plaza Theater since 1970. He placed it on the market late last year. Developer Jim Cook said in June that the asking price was $2.87 million.
On Friday, Mainstreet Steamboat Springs Manager Tracy Barnett, who is a member of the Friends of the Chief group, said the group was signing a contract to buy the building. The final details of the purchase were not available.
Helme said the theater still has three years in its contract and that she does not plan to leave before that. Barnett agreed and said the theater and the two other businesses in the plaza would help pay the mortgage for the first few years.
After that, the group likely will transform the Chief into a performing arts space. Barnett said a meeting is planned for this week and that plans will be finalized throughout the coming years.