The Big Picture: The Success of the Large Format Film Industry

Academy Award winning filmmaker, Kieth (cq) Merrill is addressing a meeting of specialty film executives and large format theater operators in Vancouver, Canada. His frustration is obvious.Merrill with a catalog of nine IMAX films to his credit won his first Oscar in the Best Documentary Short Subject category for the 40-minute film "The Great American Cowboy" and was again nominated in 1997 for his large screen endeavor, "Amazon."And with filming just completed on "Olympic Glory" in Nagano, Japan, the first large format film devoted to winter Olympics, Merrill has flown to Canada at his own expense to ask theatre owners what they want to see.Traditionally financed by consortiums of museums and various scientific and educational foundations, IMAX-type films have long had a mandate to educate. Should those film also happened to fall through the door of entertainment, well, from the institutional view, that's secondary.But the industry is changing. And though the Toronto-based IMAX Corporation has had a virtual monopoly on the market it created starting with "Tiger Child," a National Film Board of Canada production made for the Fuji Group's pavilion at the 1970 World's Fair in Osaka, others are entering the game with commercial profits in mind. Among these are, traditional Hollywood-type film exhibitors including Sony, Cinemark, Regal, Movieco, and the well positioned, Newport Beach, California based Edwards' Theatres are teaming up with IMAX to add big screens to the mix at metropolitan Cineplex's.Rubbing his brow, Merrill sums the current state of the industry by relating a biblical parable about King Solomon:"It's like the story of the two mothers in the Old Testament who are fighting over a child. 'It's mine!' cries the first one. 'No, it's mine!' the other insists. And they pull violently one at the child's head and other at the child's feet. The argument is then brought before the king who suggests they simply cut the child in half. Either way you slice it," the weary Merrill says, "you are going to raise a very confused child."And now, more players are coming into the game. More filmmakers, long put off by the high production expense and slow return on investments largely due to a limited number of theatres worldwide capable of showing films shot in the revered 15-perf/70mm format are now finding new ears and new sources of funding.But until more commercial theaters are built, it is still the institutions that fund the majority of 15/70 films. And hence the focus on edutainment with typical subject matter of geography, science, animals and human achievement. Sure a few oddball entries such as the 90-minute concert film "Rolling Stones At the MAX," and the decidedly Dada cartoon, "Primiti-Too-Tah" have managed to find their way onto the big screen, but money talks.So, the industry, just now beginning to shed it diapers, relies on just 160 IMAX theatres worldwide; and only 75 of those in this country (figures based on the IMAX Corporations' report for first quarter '98). That's peanuts compared to the typical thousand screen rollouts that await each new Hollywood flick of the week.This relative lack of screens is creating a tug-of-war between the institutions call for education and commercial theatres demand for entertainment. Once a subtle topic, industry leaders are now becoming more vocal about their stands.Representing the institutional market, Jeffrey W. Kirsch president of the industry's professional association the International Space Theater Consortium (ISTC) lays it on the line in his "off camera" column in the Spring '98 edition of the ISTC' s Big Frame quarterly.Kirsch writes: " ... it is clear that the surge of commercial theaters is perturbing the relatively serene waters upon which the cultural institutions' theaters have floated ... In this type of milieu, the (ISTC) has an important role to play, and that is ... to foster the success of film projects being developed for the educational market."Meanwhile a splinter the Large Format Cinema Association, (LFCA) which held its second annual conference at the California Science Center in Los Angeles is more aligned with the entertainment side of the industry where commercial exhibitors feel the future of the industry lies.Ironically, because the industry is still in its infancy, both groups share many of the members and sponsors.To help foster the growth of commercial theatres, and film production along with it, the LFCA asserts that IMAX and 15/70 need not be the only way to go and are just as eager to work with the competing IWERKS Entertainment's systems and 8/70 filmmaking.A year of mixed results for IWERKS, the company saw the U. S. District Court for the Central District of California dismiss all of its antitrust allegations against IMAX just weeks after the company's founder Don Iwerks received a technical Oscar, the Gordon E. Sawyer Award, for lifetime achievement. Iwerks is recognized for his role in creating visual and technical specialties for Disneyland including Star Tours, and Captain EO as well as a the new Honey I Shrunk The Audience just opened at Disney's revamped Tomorrowland in Anaheim.At the mercy of both camps are the filmmakers, who following the record- breaking launch of "Everest" have reason to be optimistic. Two-time Emmy Award winner Steve Judson of Laguna Beach, California's MacGillivray Freeman Films who co-wrote, co-produced, and edited "Everest" thinks the whole question is "more than an either/or thing. You can have a film that is doing both educating and entertaining simultaneously. That's the kind of math I try to apply."Also the type of education that theaters are looking for has changed. Six or eight years ago there was more emphasis on making information driven films. Now we are increasingly realizing that what the large format films do well is to inspire people and fire the imagination. Get them enthused about a subject. Then after the lights go up, teachers can (build on) that spark."Goulam Amarsy, executive producer for the Montreal based Stephen Low Company, who's forward thinking "Titanica" is currently enjoying a second life in theatres, agrees that a good balance is the key."Let's not forget our mandate. There is no way out of it. IMAX films need to be very educational with a story because children want to be educated. Our film 'Super Speedway' (a full throttle affair which takes the viewer on to the track with champion racecar driver Mario Andretti) is a good example," Armarsy says. "You can't covey education in the old 1970's documentary form anymore. That is finished. Gone."Complimenting his competition, Judson explained that one of the best ways for filmmakers to achieve both goals is through visual storytelling as evidenced in Director Ben Stassen's "Thrill Ride-The Science of Fun" a peerless 2D documentary from Sony Pictures Classics that traces the history and technology of rollercoaters."There is a wonderful little scene in 'Thrill Ride' that deconstructs the use of CGI (computer generated imagery) with a chrome model. You are just sitting there being entertained and suddenly you get a sense of 'gee. This is how rollercoasters work.' It's a small joy that doesn't need narration."We (MacGillivray Freeman) did something like that in 'The Living Sea' with the moon and the tides. We set it up to let nature play and the let the audience kind of 'get it' on their own. Same thing in 'The Magic of Flight'. We wanted to show how (airplane) wings works. So we filmed birds in slow motion. You see their wing tips curving and the bird changes direction. And the audience just kind of gets it intuitively."This approach brings a good blend of education and entertainment. We don't want the audience saying, 'Oh this is the fun part'. And, 'Oooops. Here's the lesson.'""Thrill Ride" producer, Charlotte Huggins who cut her teeth doing the well known Magnavox commercials (staring John Cleese) and worked on the special effects team for "Wings of Courage" (Sony's first 3D attempt to create a Hollywood-style work of dramatic fiction utilizing well-known stars -Val Kilmer, Elizabeth Perkins, and Tom Hulce-) makes no attempt to disguise motives. "We set out to make 'Thrill Ride' as a crossover film," she says with some relish.Freda Nicholson, C.E.O. of Discovery Place Omnimax Dome in Charlotte, North Carolina who also chairs the ISTC is, however, careful to point out that "Thrill Ride" would not be appropriate for a school audience. "It's not easy for institutional theatres to use these crossover films. We have an educational mission and to show a film in our daily time slot it has to have a strong educational base."Nicholson's colleague, Richard Van Zandt, director of the Omni Theatre, at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, and head of the ISTC's new films committee concurs."Let's face it, for museums, school groups are life blood We have three morning shows for school groups and from March until the end of the school year, every one of those seats will be taken up by a school kid." Joseph Deamicis (cq) Vice President of Marketing for the recently re- christened California Science Center, which just opened its new 2D/3D IMAX theatre in Los Angeles, is even more emphatic."We have a mandate to parents to offer education. And as an interactive facility we have a lot of fun to sell. Our facility comes as a back light to Disneyland and other southern California attractions. And what we see is their (admission) prices going through the roof. The public feels they are not getting good value for their money and that, we believe, opens a door for us."With new interactive exhibits and no (museum) admission fee, Deamicis says the Center still relies on filling its IMAX seats with school children."That's our business. That's our franchise. We own it."On the commercial side, during the day, during the week things are the same. For over two years now a steady stream of yellow school busses has pulled up in front Edwards IMAX at the Irvine Spectrum 21 theatres depositing loads of school kids for screenings of "The Living Sea" in 3D.Don Barton vice president of marketing and advertising for Edwards Cinema Circuit says, "We have a full department that does nothing but market towards school groups. Included in the ticket sales are educational packets created by the producers of the films so that a teacher can do a little bit more that just take 'em to the movies."Among the many new players looking to get into the game is Peter Speek, President and co-owner of Warren Miller Entertainment, a 50 year old company that has made its reputation on the road show circuit producing a new film each year featuring daredevil, globe-hopping, exploits of champion skiers and snowboarders."We bring a unique bridge," says Speek who suggest building large format theatres at ski lodges, "because our films already have a certain educational side that could be exploited further, and yet have an enormous entertainment value."We are outside in nature attacking mountains and doing things that (apart from scaling Everest) have not been done. You have the elements of snow and weather cycles. So there is certainly a strong environmental story to tell." Speaking again for the institutions, Nicholson agrees that building theatres in non-traditional facilities may be the wave of the future. "I think that institutional growth will be in zoos and aquariums. They both have the largest attendance figures and I think large screen theatres would do well there." In Fort Worth, Van Zandt welcomes all comers."What we need is more product. I'm sure as soon as there are more theatres then the filmmakers can get a decent return on their films. That's been the problem when you have only 75 theatres (in this country) you end up running films for six months at a time. We ran 'The Living Sea' by itself for a year. And we've had 'Great Barrier Reef" so many times that it's unreal."Nicholson echos the Catch-22 position, "It used to be that theatres would show anything that was produced because we didn't have any choice. We had slots to fill and there wasn't but one film a year being released. Maybe two. Now you really don't have to take the dogs."In a similar position Edwards' Barton, says "Frankly we are a little disappointed that we don't see a whole lot of 3D product out there." His company invested heavily in 3D feeling it would add another form of entertainment to the megaplexes. "We really bought into the 3D aspect. We though it was hi-tech. But it seems to me that the last three, 3D efforts have been just to fulfill the obligations to theatres."For different reasons both Barton and Van Zant may soon get their wishes in terms of more theatres. The word in the industry these days is b-u-i-l-d! The first example of this new phase opened in December of '96 with a 3D IMAX theatre at the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas. A second 3D IMAX partnering the IMAX Corporation with Ogden Entertainment opened at the Arizona Mills in Tempe, Arizona in March.Ogden VP of marketing and theater development, Paul Fraser couldn't be prouder of the venture. "What I can say is location, location, location," Fraser enthused. "It's a fairly upscale market and in our first month we had 76,000 guests." The company has 15 more theatres on the drawing board including a location next to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California, one in London and a smaller theatre near the Wright Brothers Monument in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.Meanwhile Sony Theatres whose Manhattan location was the first 3D IMAX theatre in this country, is set to open new theatres at San Francisco's Metreon later this year and another in Berlin in time for the world's fair in 2000. And Destination Cinema, Inc which has specializes in cite specific films in its theatres the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls and elsewhere, will open its second National Geographic-branded IMAX theatre at the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria, Canada June 24th.Of the commercial exhibitors Regal Cinemas has signed with IMAX to develop 10 screens. Meanwhile Edwards, busy scouting sites across the country, has just opened theatres in Boise, Idaho, which may add an IMAX. At its megaplex in Houston, Texas and the coming location at Howard Hughes in West Los Angeles, IMAX is a certainty, and according to IMAX spokesman Al Newman, Edwards has committed to 10 more. Dallas's Cinemark will build 12. Count the Canadian cinema circuit Famous Players in for 12, Regal for 10 and a host of European exhibitors who are launching a similar attack.Additional theaters means increased competition on an increasingly narrower turf. In Fort Worth the Omni Theater is feeling the pinch of a new dome theater just 30 miles away in Dallas. Other cities including Vancouver and Las Vegas are each home to two large format screens.In Charlotte, Nicholson feels her market is fairly isolated. The nearest large format screens in Myrtle Beach, Richmond and Atlanta are all a good four hours drive away. But if a commercial IMAX theatre was built in Charlotte, Nicholson says "Oh I wouldn't be terribly concerned. I think our audience comes for the overall 3-4 hour museum experience. In any case we would hold fast to our mandate."Maybe we would lose some of our night market. But right now we haven't really built a night market. We tried night screenings of "Rolling Stones at the MAX" but it did not do well for us. I think that is what 'Everest' is going to do for us. It is going to change the cultural picture of Charlotte at night." As a part of the Museum Film Network, Discovery Place has co-produced "To The Limit," and "Stormchasers." With Nova, the museum was a partner on "Special Effects," and "Cosmic Voyage" and is currently partnered with MacGillivray Freeman Films for an upcoming dolphins project.Increase competition, Nicholson feels could urge the museum to increase its role in producing films and in creating or presenting themed exhibits that tie in with various films."When we were showing 'Antarctica' we had the Antarctica exhibit from St. Paul. We booked it as 'A cool summer' and I think in the future we will do more of that kind of thing."In terms of new 3D product, at least four new films are due in the near future. "Mark Twain's America," premiers in June, "Adventures In the Third Dimension" featuring Elvira, from "Thrill Ride" producers N Wave Pictures in September and the eagerly anticipated "T-Rex 3D," with trailers already in theatres that reveal nothing of the film's content, expected in October. The fourth, and most hush hush project is the buzz surrounding Paramount Pictures' 3D "Star Trek" on which no information is available.Edwards' Barton likes the idea though "Paramount has been pretty quiet about it. I think the (industry) should look towards what's been successful in Hollywood in the past. Perhaps they can do more feature length stuff like a 3D "Toy Story."Three D, however is currently a moot point in IMAX dome theatres as Charlotte's Nicholson points out: "None of the dome (save those built in the new Soleido format) can use 3D. Our projection booth is designed to be large enough, but IMAX is still working on the technology."In the mean time IMAX has toned down it's the emphasis on 3D in its marketing materials and has made 2D versions of its most popular titles available. Dome theater exhibitors can now choose from 2D versions of "L5 First City In Space," noted Australian director Paul Cox's schizophrenic, retitled, "The Hidden Dimension" the coming "T-Rex" and others. Many of these older title have also recently been captioned for hearing imparied audiences and Sony has just released "Thrill Ride" "Wings of Courage" and on home video.The 3D process requires two projectors and either the use of polarized plastic glasses or the Sony PSE system with computer controlled liquid crystal headsets that are hard-wired to each seat.Edwards' Barton feels the PSE has given his company an edge over the competition. "Some people say there is not much difference," Barton said, "but I sure think there is."How these issues will finally resolve is still up in the air. Two areas where both sides do agree are films like 'Everest' that satisfy both markets, and a desire to see more animated product."I think computer generate stuff is where the future lies," says Edwards' Barton. Nicholson agrees, "One area of large format filmmaking we're gonna see in the future that could be fantastic is animation."Others have a variety of suggestions.Warren Miller's Speek, for one, thinks that building theatres at non- traditional sites could fulfill part of the venue shortage. "The obvious places (institutions and shopping malls) have been taken, so I think you have to look deeper."Fort Worth's Van Zandt offers one practical solution to bridging the gap between education and entertainment needs. From his experience distributors listen to feedback and on films such as MacGillivray Freeman's "Speed" have gone so far as to provide a more suitable narration track."There have been films in their original version that did not meet our criteria. So we went back to the distributor and said, 'If you want us to run this film here some suggestions.' 'Speed' was one of those cases and they redid the narration for us. So I was thinking why not continue to produce two different narration soundtracks? Some films would work either way. And on others that wouldn't quite cut it, well, boom! Just add the other soundtrack."Edwards' Barton only partially agrees, "I don't think that is enough. I don't know what soundtrack can help some of the films that are out there." Instead, Barton sides with the results of post screening consumer surveys his company has conducted. "Our customers are saying 'I wish the films were a little longer, and I wish there were a little more entertaining.'"Journalist Randy Matin specializes in covering the large format industry and may be reached via e:mail at***SidebarPicking the Hits: A Preview of Large Format Films By Randy Matin Thought Godzilla was big? Ha! Something much much bigger is coming to an IMAX theatre near you soon. Watch out! Here comes T-Rex in 3D.Right behind Rex, in various stages of production, are a host of other large format films, some with the music Moody Blues or "Star Wars" composer John Williams, and others with the participation of oceanic explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau or Frank Marshall the Academy Award nominated producer of "Jurassic Park."Along with new films from established directors of the genre: Stephen Low, Kieth (cq) Merrill, Greg Mac Gillivary and Ben Stassen, are films that will take viewers from gold fever in the Yukon, to a search for treasure sunk in the deep sea, from the adventures of an animated Dinosaur named Stanley D, to stories of super trains and the legacy of Mark Twain. Here's a look at what's to come.Now playingAfrica's Elephant KingdomDiscovery Channel Pictures kicked off its first large format endeavor with "Elephants" in May. The film wins viewers sympathies by showing the intelligence and human like community values these kings of the tundra possess. Cute animals amuse while sub woofer rattling charges scenes are as exciting as a good old Hollywood car chase. Discovery will follow with Wildfire.The Greatest PlacesFrom the Science Museum of Minnesota ("Ring of Fire"/"Topical Rainforest") comes a large format film that attempt to capture the diversity of our planet with a look at seven landscapes from tundra to tropic. The film had its world premier Feb 14th in St. Paul.Due SoonSupertrain/ Mark TwainFrom the genre's most accomplished storyteller, Stephen Low ("Titanica"/'Super Speedway") comes Mark Twain's America In 3D due for release July 2 through Sony Pictures Classics. The Ken Burns-style production uses archival photos, period music and battle scenes to review Twain's life. Also in the works is Supertrain, a 3D The project which profiles the human story behind the ways that trains have shaped daily life A Feb'99 completion date is hoped for.T-RexThe one film that exhibitors in both the institutional and commercial worlds are excited about is 'T-Rex' from Lawnmower Man/Virtuosity director Bret Leonard. Starring Thirtysomething's Peter Horton, T-Rex follows a 16-year-old girl as she is whisked back to the Cretaceous Period. The odds on bet to burn up the box office "Everest" style, "T-Rex" opens in New York and Los Angeles on October 9.Mysteries of EgyptIn brief preview clips this film looked among the most promising. From Destination Cinema/National Geographic Films and directed by the Emmy award- winning Bruce Neibaur 'Mysteries of Egypt" follows scientists studying ancient culture. The film includes journey down the Nile and explores the construction of the pyramids. Omar Sharif and Kate Maberly star. Look for a release in the fall.Encounter in 3rd DimensionFrom Ben Stassen ("Thrill Ride") the most promising new large director comes a new film featuring Elvira and some mind boggling CGI. Look for release later this year from N Wave. Meanwhile Columbia/Tri-Star Home Video has just announced the release of "Thrill Ride" on video.WolvesThree films are on the books for "Whales" producer Chris Palmer First up is "Wolves" presented by the National Wildlife Foundation. Expected in December, Palmer says the film "shows the amazing complexity of the family life of a pack of wolves. A film called "Water" is fully funded with its premier scheduled for fall of '99 followed by an IMAX film on Bears. Palmer will also be involved with the MacGillivray Freeman project "Dolphins." Due in 1999Olympic Gold/ Truk LagoonComing in January '99 is the latest from "Amazon" director Kieth Merrill. Shot in Nagano the film is now in the editing stages. With Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy producing, "Olympic Glory" is the first large format film devoted exclusively to the Olympics. Also from Mega Systems and due in early 2000 is "Truk Lagoon." The film follows famed diver/oceanographer Jean-Michel Cousteau (cq) into Truk Lagoon where the United States sunk over 60 submarines, battleships, and aircraft carrier in retaliation for a Pearl Harbor. Now a diving Mecca, an amazing array of marine life has formed on top of the wreckage. Also involved in the exhibition end of the business, Mega Systems is shooting for a spring '99 debut of its 8/70 theatre in the barrel room of the 128 year old Grossinger Winery in Yountville, California's with partner Magnum Cinema. A signature destination film "Vintage California" is about to go into production, for that theatre, focusing on California history from 1830-1880. The company expects completion in the Y2K.Gold FeverExpecting an early '99 release this film produced by Science North in Sudbury, Ontario and, shot in the Yukon, tells the story of gold through the eyes of a prospector. Includes mining, the work of goldsmiths and hi-tech uses of gold in computers, avionics and the space program.YosemiteLook for a fall '99 release of "Yosemite from director Soames Summerhays "The audience will experience the joy the changing of seasons seen through the eyes of the early explorers and Yosemite wildlife," says Summerhays. "It's a film of adventure that soars on the wings of eagles between Yosemite's magnificent granite domes, it will cross the entertainment/educational barrier." Summerhays, who releases his own work through Summerhays Films, Inc. is also working on "Realm of the Desert Whales" a film about Baja California and the Sea of Cortez. Due in spring 2000. The film explores the diversity and richness of life that spans the peninsula.MigrationsThis third film from Houston Museum of Natural Science ("Africa The Serengeti" and "Alaska) is a 2D-project, set release in summer 1999 will attempt to capture the journey of survival as elephants, zebras, wildebeests, butterflies and whales cross challenging terrain. Five time Academy Award nominee George Casey ("Alaska: Spirit of the Wild") will direct.Caves/Dolphins>From MacGillivray Freeman films who brought you "Everest" comes a new spelunking adventure "Caves" set for release in October '99. Also in the works are "Dolphins" directed by Greg MacGillivray and Steve Judson for February, 2000, and "Caribbean," "Dinosaurs," "Australia," and "Space Journey" all spread over the next several years. Going For The GoldProducer Hans Kummer (cq) of Wild Child Entertainment whose background is in underwater photography, is working on a project that pairs the US Bobsledding team with NASCAR drivers Geoff and Todd Bodine. With the help of the drivers, and IBM, and others, a new, high tech bobsled is designed and built. The film explores the similarities between bobsledding and NASCAR racing considering technology, training and the personalities of the athletes. Included, too is a look at the Women's Bobsled Team, a sport that will likely be added for the 2002 Olympic. Wild Child also has a bobsled simulator ride called "R.O.C.K." (racing on the cutting edge). And the company is readying another IMAX film, "Deep" with music by the Moody Blues.Coming in the Y 2KVolcano Lost City of PompeiiFrom the producers of "Special Effects" (NOVA/WGB) comes three new projects: Volcano Lost City of Pompeii described as "a detective story about the science of volcanology and archeology and the history of Pompeii" Also, principal photography has begun on Cocoa: Island of the Sharks filmed at a remote island with a unique ecco system and the highest number of shark species anywhere on Earth. Another project here is Invisible Worlds which is all about bugs. With all three projects due in 2K, NOVA/WGB's Kelley Tyler says, "It's a millenium kind of a thing."I-52Investors and adventurers are still being sought by Cape Verde Explorations to go join the crew on mission to salvage two tons of gold from a sunken Japanese spy sub: I-52, lying in deep water off the coast of the Barbados, since WWII. Kieth (cq) Merrill will direct as diving crews bring the treasure on board. On the Drawing BoardThe Adventures of Stanley "D"A unique animation project this film is planned as the first of a trilogy that follows the coming of age story of a young sauropad-named Stan. A proposed part two would detail romance and mating and, according to producer Daniel White of Big Films, Inc., "the third story is of self actualizations done with 3D soft image computer animation." White has six minutes completed and is looking for an additional $200,000 in completion funds.""L'Arte Vetraria" (cq) /The Art of Glassmaking Carlo Secchiaroli (cq) keygrip on "Titanica", "Super Speedway" steps up to the producer's seat for a passionate and artsy documentary on Italian glassblowing. His Montreal-based One Nation Entertainment is pursing funds to begin shooting this Christmas. "Watching the craftsmen work at L'Arte Vetraria," Secchiaroli says, "is like watching a ballet.FireworksStill on the drawing board is L.T. B. (Love the Business) Productions Fireworks A 3-5 minute version will be shot first on video with hopes of raising funds to complete the proposed 40-minute IMAX project. The company is also putting a proposal for "Romancing The Train" back on the table.Children of the Glacier: a Great Lakes OdysseyA chronologically told tale will include the expected topics of wildlife, industry and the region's 3,700 shipwrecks. Over eager sales reps were promising everything from pie-in-the sky to stuffed animals.Goin' Sonic"Special Effects" director Ben Burtt's next effort, "Goin' Sonic: from producer Laurel Ladevich's Silverlining Productions is looking for additional funding.In the film, "Star Wars" composer John Williams will demonstrate how sound affects daily life and will examine the origins of modern symphonic instruments. The company is also preparing the 3D title "Racing The Dream" and Women With Wings about women in aviation.Power of the Planet: the story of Energy>From "Cosmic Voyage" director, Bailey Sellick come the story of energy. The film will detail fossil fuels and wind and solar research. With a grant from the US Department of Energy, the producers promise "Computer graphics where you are an electron. You are fired around, transformed, rectified and go through a trolley car. If you saw the (Kurt Russell starring Disney film) 'Tron' this is like 'Tron' a generation later."Completion of the film, with a hoped for release in December '99 is, of course, based on funding.Journalist Randy Matin specializes in covering the large format industry. He may be reached via e:mail at


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