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With 3D, 5D cinemas, what next for movie pirates?

My first time in a cinema was when my elder brother took me with him for a holidaymakers’ trans-day bash.

Since I was underage for the dance, he paid the officials at Cineplex so that I could watch the two movies showing – Armageddon and Rush Hour (yes, you don’t forget your first movie in a cinema) – while he partied away elsewhere. In the end, the experience was remarkable; at that time, what made a cinema movie special was the ability to watch characters and the action in full colour and on a big screen.

Many years down the road, a lot has changed; Cineplex has since moved from a cluttered William street to the posh Garden City and Oasis malls. They even have competition in the form of Cinema Magic in Naalya and Cinemax in Makerere.

In the early 2000s, the digital age took over cinema with 2D (two-dimensional) and later 3D movies. The 3D was not immediately adopted by Hollywood, leaving it for a while to Disneyland’s theme parks, which as early as 2003, showed many of their animated movies in 3D.

It was in 2010 that the glasses made a Hollywood comeback with James Cameron’s Avatar. Even some movies originally done in 2D were retouched to cash in on the 3D fad. When the Grammy awards aired a Michael Jackson tribute done by Celine Dion, Usher, Carrie Underwood, Smokey Robinson and Jennifer Hudson, it was in 3D, the first time in the history of the awards show.

In 2013, Cinema Magic, Cineplex Oasis mall and Cinemax launched 3D theatres in Uganda, and Cinemax went a step further with a 5D hall. Using special eye glasses and in some cinema halls, special fittings, a 3D movie allows patrons enhanced optical illusion and deep perception, allowing one to feel like they are part of the cast in some scenes.

My first stop was Cinemax, where a 5D clip goes for Shs 30,000 with a free pass to watch any 3D film on their menu, as well as a free soda, although for those interested in 3D only, the ticket costs Shs 15,000.

Shs 30,000 is quite high for a 30-minute clip, but the experience was amazing and mind-blowing. 5D cinema offers no films per se; it is really an amusement park visit. If you want the thrill of a hair-raising rollercoaster ride without stepping onto one, then 5D is for you. The glasses combined with the simulator-seats help you ‘plummet’ down steep drops and dupe you into believing you are part of the action.

It gets seriously freaky especially when the seats start bobbing up and down, side to side. There were those spectacular scenes where the rollercoaster stumbled onto an anaconda-like snake and stopped suddenly. As the snake charged to devour the guy in front of me, our sits started shaking and ‘tipping towards the snake’; it was scary and really amazing.

The biggest difference about 3D and 5D is that 5D combines 3D and 4D to offer your mind more to ogle about; for example, when the rollercoaster races through a fountain on screen, your face is indeed hit with water spray, then the mist, smoke and bubbles. Oh, did I mention the room becomes too cold during the snow scenes?

On the other hand, 3D cinema, with the help of glasses, enhances imagination making scenes of birds to appear to be flying out of the screen; mist and bullets from the screen also can seem to be aimed at you.

Cinema Magic was showing 47 Ronin starring Keanu Reeves, when I visited, but the real 3D thrill was at Cineplex’s Oasis mall hall. The Hobbit was showing, and that is a movie really made for 3D. During one bloody fight, a movie character slices off an opponent’s head with a clean swing of the sword, and patrons actually duck in their seats because the severed head appears to come flying right at you. Cool stuff.

I don’t know what the future holds for my movie-pirate buddies downtown, who usually sell me the latest blockbusters in “clear copy” before the movies even hit the cinemas; technology has scored one ahead, this time.

For 20,000 more than my usual Shs 1,500 “clear copy”, 3D adds the flavour to the picture by involving the audience especially in aggressive, action-packed thrillers. Cineplex on a normal day, charges Shs 22,000 for one to watch a movie in 3D. Some movies were listed for Shs 25,000. Cinema Magic Naalya charges Shs 16,000 with a free soda, plus half-price Thursdays.

However, located off the Northern bypass at Metroplex shopping mall, if one does not own a car, leaving Cinema Magic at night (when many of the good movies are screened) is hard; there are no direct taxis to this place, compared to the other malls that have taxi drop-off stages or boda boda stages.

The newest entrant, Cinemax, wins as far as accessibility is concerned; located opposite the Makerere University main gate on Ham shopping mall, it is a place patrons of all pocket depths can access easily.


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