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IMAX at Jordan Commons

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SANDY — The Cricket SuperScreen auditorium will soon be getting a makeover by IMAX.

The large-format movie theater, which is part of Larry H. Miller's Jordan Commons Megaplex 17 complex, will become a genuine IMAX venue with an agreement signed by Salt Lake-based LHM Group and the IMAX Corp.

The 450-seat theater will close next week and is tentatively scheduled to reopen the weekend of Sept. 2, equipped for 3-D IMAX films, according to marketing director Dave Bollard.

Jordan Commons has also contracted with IMAX to be the first Utah theater to show "Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3-D," produced by Tom Hanks, which is similar to the science-oriented films screened in Clark Planetarium's 3-D IMAX auditorium.

So why wasn't IMAX part of the mix when the Megaplex 17 opened in 1999? "We found them difficult to deal with then," Miller told the Deseret Morning News, "but they've since changed their business philosophies and we were able to make a deal with them."

He added, "We've been fortunate to create a fun family environment (at Jordan Commons), and based on what the market is telling us, IMAX is just another addition in that whole quiver of what it is we're trying to present out there."

A TRAX station, which will serve both Jordan Commons and the South Towne Expo Center, "is on the drawing boards and probably a year-and-a-half away," Miller said.

Jordan Commons also hopes to coordinate with Clark Planetarium's IMAX theater, Bollard said, as the two venues have different markets.

Seating in the Jordan Commons theater will not be changed, but all-new projection equipment is being delivered and an all-new, six-story-high screen, designed specifically to enhance 3-D quality, will also be installed.

"The machinery for the projection equipment costs about $1.5 million alone, and the projector is about the size of a Volkswagen Bug," Bollard said.

He added that bringing in and installing the new screen should also be an interesting experience. "It will be delivered in one piece and will take about 40 guys to manually carry it into the theater, then spread it out on top of the seats before it's raised into place." (Presumably, taking down the old screen and carting it out will be just as difficult.)

Jordan Commons will be the first commercial IMAX location in Utah. Two other large-screen theaters in the state — at Thanksgiving Point and just outside Zion Canyon in Springdale — use non-IMAX large-format-film equipment.

Bollard said Sept. 2 is the target date for a "soft opening" of both "Batman Begins: The IMAX Experience" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: The IMAX Experience," which will be shown at alternate times in the theater, with "Magnificent Desolation" opening about Sept. 23.

He said the theater also is considering bringing back "The Polar Express" this Christmas, showing it in 3-D IMAX. Previous screenings of the film in Utah were standard 35mm.

The LHM Group will also be constructing a 20-theater complex in The District — South Jordan's new retail center — and Bollard said the company is considering adding another IMAX theater to that mix.

In just over the past four months, IMAX — based in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada — has signed similar deals to retrofit existing theaters in seven other cities, including St. Louis and Kansas City.

In a press release about the new Jordan Commons agreement, Richard L. Gelfond and Bradley J. Wechsler, co-chairmen and co-CEOs of the IMAX Corp., said they were pleased "to partner with Larry Miller and the LHM Group," pointing out that Jordan Commons is among the top-grossing movie theaters in the country.

When the Super theater opened in November 1999, it featured Utah's first showing of what was then one of IMAX's biggest hits — "Everest." But because the theater was constructed with another brand of big-screen equipment, many first-run IMAX films have not opened there during their initial runs due to IMAX Corp.'s restrictions.

E-mail: ivan@desnews.com