Theater-sized Video Gaming

It’s interesting to see what Vermont theaters have done in recent years to stay afloat. Cinemas in some places have become more than just a place to go watch films. Essex Cinemas has worked to cultivate the serious movie-goer. Williston’s Majestic Ten has advertised their screens as a meeting and presentation space. Now, it seems that there’s a new use for theaters: video gaming.

While looking at the slate of Vermont’s screens earlier today, two theaters caught my eyes: Springfield’S Cinemas 3 and Middlebury’s Marquis Theatre both advertised video gaming rentals. It’s a cool idea: hook up an xBox or Playstation to one of the big screens and watch as your own story unfolds on the big screen.

The Marquis Theatre advertises the following: $25 an hour. You get the whole theater to yourself, or for your friends. Utilize our state of the art 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound Systems (speakers hand picked by a specialist) and our Christie CP2210 DLP Digital Projectors (worth more than your college tuition). Enjoy the comfort of our thickly padded reclining chairs, along with classic concession choices, ranging from fresh buttered popcorn to the largest collection of candy you will ever see in a place of business. You will never want to go home. Ever.

The theater is available by appointment. (Email them at marquismidmovies@gmail.com or call (802) 388-4841)

Across the state, Springfield Cinemas 3 has a similar program: $40 an hour will get you a theater. They note that they have “340 square feet of screen with both PS3 and XBOX 360 systems. There are four wireless controllers for each system and a small selection of video games to choose from on hand.”

This makes quite a bit of sense to me: movie theaters in the last couple of years have been under fire to change over from traditional 35mm or 70mm projectors to digital ones. (Indeed, when prominent directors push for traditional film releases, theater owners get pretty upset. These digital projectors are expensive, and theaters such as Waitsfield’s Big Picture theater had to resort to crowd-funding campaigns to actually begin to purchase the equipment. As the Marquis Theater notes, it’s more than a college education (Middlebury College’s tuition is in the $46,000 range).

This is all in a market that has seen the worse year in movie revenue in over a decade. If people aren’t going to the movies as much as they did before, it’s clear that movie theaters are going to be diversifying their offerings quite a bit in the coming years. My guess here is that what Middlebury and Springfield are doing are steps that we’ll see other theaters take up in the near future.

I have to admit, it’s something that I’m surprised hasn’t been done much thus far, because it’s a pretty simple idea. (My guess is the conversion to digital projectors is the key here.) I’m now itching to break out multiplayer Halo on one of the big screens with a group of friends.

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